Photo Credit: David Cohen/Flash90
A technician carries out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at the Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat, August 24, 2020.

Nine Israeli organizations were granted EU funding worth approximately €4.5 million ($5.3 Million) under the Horizon 2020 program, to take part in eight of the 23 international projects that won grants following the EU’s urgent call for proposals responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Israeli organizations will take part in collaborative projects comprised of at least three partners (including research institutes, NGOs, governmental entities or companies) from three different countries, and develop solutions that can be applied quickly as a response to the coronavirus outbreak in the following fields: Immediate conversion of production lines for the manufacture of vital medical equipment; medical technologies, digital instruments and artificial intelligence (AI) for treatment, monitoring and follow-up; social and economic effects of the pandemic; and building databases of patients in order to create new models for responding to emerging health threats.

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The partnerships and winning Israeli entrants include:

Sanolla – set up a winning partnership of seven different European entities, with a total budget of €7 million. The partnership is developing a system for monitoring coronavirus patients and individuals with chronic heart or lung conditions, which enables monitoring bodily sounds not audible to the human ear, and analysis and diagnosis across numerous parameters based on AI tools. The technology will facilitate swift identification – within 10 seconds – of the disease, enabling rapid isolation of patients, and preventing the entry of sick people into retirement communities and other high-risk public areas. Furthermore, use of the technology in the home will allow patients with mild symptoms to independently detect any worsening of symptoms, and allow seriously ill patients to be treated more rapidly. Natali, an Israeli telemedicine company which provides emergency medical treatment at home, is also a member of this partnership. It will use a remote monitoring and management platform for patients combining both human and professional contact, using various technological means for collecting medical data done from the patient’s home.

Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at Leumit Health Care Services branch in Or Yehuda, on July 14, 2020. / Yossi Zeliger / Flash 90

SKM Aeronautics – a partner in a project aimed at rapidly transforming production lines to manufacture products required during emergency deployment. SKM is developing the knowhow required for rapid conversion of production lines for multiple-use protective silicon masks with unique anti-bacterial textures and internal, single-use filters. The project involves 21 partners from academia, research and industry all working in one way or another to convert production lines and create a universal knowledge base that can be implemented almost immediately in an emergency by a large number of manufacturers. The total budget for the project is €6.3 million, and is expected to last 24 months.

PhotosonicSys – a project developing a small, portable and inexpensive device based on light-sensing technology which carries out rapid, low-cost testing to detect a virus in samples. These tests can be conducted at the point of treatment without the need to send the sample away to a laboratory, using a multilayer metallic plasma substrate on which magnetic nanoparticles are attached to an antibody linked to the virus. When the virus is present, the nanoparticles will bind, and a light sensor will respond accordingly. Development of the technology will continue as part of the project, and the number of tests that can be carried out in parallel will be increased in order to reduce costs, bolster accuracy and reliability, and enable large-scale production. Participants in the partnership include a research team from France responsible for the biological and clinical aspects of development of the test, an Irish company producing the magnetic nanoparticles, another company managing the project as well an additional company handling regulation and approval for use from European authorities. In total, the project is comprised of seven partners, has an overall budget of approximately €2.8 million, and is expected to last 12 months.

University of Haifa – this project is led by Prof. Sara Rosenblum and partners Prof. Naomi Josman and Dr. Sonia Meir, and involves building an empathetic, personalized platform to monitor, enrich, and assist adults and children in their natural environment. Quality of life is extremely important during times of crisis, such as the current pandemic. The planned project will include personal assessment of adults and children with disabilities and tailoring individualized intervention programs which include intergenerational communication. The goal is to improve the functioning, ability and socialization of the participants, and to bring about an improvement in their mental and physical health. The project has nine partner members with a total budget of €3.5 million and is expected to last 24 months.

The Hebrew University – Prof. Howard Litvin is a partner in this project whose goal is to research the indirect effects of decisions taken to mitigate the corona epidemic. The project is comprised of an interdisciplinary team with members from twelve countries. The team will utilize the data that has accumulated as part of the European SHARE survey, and will analyse attitudes and information gathered in a survey among the adult population across Europe immediately upon the outbreak of the epidemic as well as data that will again be gathered again a year later. It will focus on identifying inequalities in access to health services, understanding the impact of lockdowns on the population and on employment, and determining the effects of lockdowns and the pandemic in general on social inequality. The budget for the project, which is comprised of 15 partners, is approximately €6.8 million. It is expected to last some 36 months.

MDM Projects – the company will be a partner in a project named CleanAir, which will produce devices for air purification and disinfection from viruses. These will be installed in hospitals, medical centers and clinics in the community. MDM Projects, which specializes in the development of medical products, will develop the filter for the final product based on a prototype developed by another partner. The company will also submit an application for CE marking in the EU and an application for FDA approval. It will also produce a first batch of hundreds or thousands of filters for the device, which will serve clinics across Europe and around the world. The project is comprised of seven partners, has a total budget of €2.2 million, and is expected to last 24 months.

Siemens Israel – is developing a software system connecting suppliers and consumers for components created via 3D printing technologies for industrial use. With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Siemens opened the system to medical entities to allow them to locate global suppliers of vital equipment to deal with emergency situations. As part of the project, a number of production centers across Europe joined together in order to provide a comprehensive service for locating suppliers, managing orders, controlling production processes and enabling the rapid supply of medical devices, products and spare parts – and ensuring these vital capabilities on an ongoing basis. The production lines needed to be brought to full capacity within a short timeframe in order to supply the required equipment to health services. The project has 21 partners, a budget of approximately €7.3 million, and is expected to last 24 months.

Magen David Adom – as part of a project called Covinform, which will examine the response to the COVID-19 pandemic at various levels: government, public health entities, and the media. The project will also examine the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups in the population. As part of the project, solutions, guidelines and recommendations will be developed to ensure that the different needs of vulnerable population groups will be taken into account in the event of additional outbreaks. Magen David Adom, as an emergency medical service that supports patients prior to hospitalization, is active in the national response in Israel to the COVID-19 outbreak, in medical care, in gathering patient samples (at home or in dedicated facilities) and plasma donations from recovering patients, and in a wide range of additional activities. The organization will offer its recommendations to the different project tracks and will lead a track evaluating the public health response. The project has 17 partners, an overall budget of €5 million, and is expected to last 36 months.

Dr. Ami Appelbaum, Chairman of the Board of the Israel Innovation Authority and of the ISERD Steering Committee, said in a statement: “The European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Program – for which the ISERD Directorate at the Israel Innovation Authority is Israel’s national contact point for participation – constitutes an opportunity for companies, academics and other Israeli entities to take part in the biggest research and development platform in the world. The program enables Israeli participants to compete, in collaboration with outstanding European partners, for extensive grants which support long-term R&D and test applications of proposed solutions in a variety of fields together with potential customers. I congratulate the Israeli entrants who won grants for solutions to the coronavirus crisis following the call for proposals. In addition, I want to commend Sanolla, the digital healthcare platform company which coordinated a proposal and earned an outstanding mention.”

Dr. Hagit Schwimmer, Head of the Life Sciences Department at ISERD – Israel-Europe Research and Innovation Directorate at the Israel Innovation Authority, said in a statement: “Participation in the Horizon 2020 program with partner companies is highly competitive, requiring considerable creativity and the development of close business ties from the preliminary preparation stage forward. Given the current terms of submission and the urgent demand for fast moving solutions, we were pleased to see that so many Israeli participants were able to appreciate the significant benefits of the program and stepped up to the challenge. These efforts led to a large number of grant winners, which will encourage European entities to continue partnering with Israeli companies in future collaborations, easing Israel’s integration into the European R&D arena in the long term. I wish the winners fruitful partnerships and great success in each and every project.”

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