Chiasma & Omrix Biopharmaceuticals

Today we are on are way back to Jerusalem. This time we are headed here to see some companies. Fred Price was nice enough to put together a panel for us in his company Chiasma’s Conference room. Fred spoke to us in New York City before our trip and had been one of the most interesting guest lectures I have seen at a University in a long time.

Arriving at Chiasma it is funny to note that not much has changed since the beginning of the trip. It seems that everyone in the class sits in the same seats on the bus and also sits in similar  seats in the multiple different conference rooms we have been in. So far we have seen some interesting companies and some amazing sights.  I have to say personally so far this is one of the best Travel Courses I have been on.

At Chiasma We were greeted by the panel of 5. Not that we are supposed to pick favorites in these things but the person I enjoyed the most was the moderator Dr. Dalia Megiddo. If you were thinking something but could not put it into words she could, and if a person was explaining something wrong she would correct them. A very intelligent person it was nice having her there to make sure we stayed on track and that our questions were answered directly.

Dr. Megiddo started us off with a brief description of what has made Israel a place where innovation can succeed. She went over Military and government programs that in the last 20 to 30 years have really helped produce these innovative start-ups. In addition to that she asked questions to the audience about why we though Israel had been so succesful. The standard answer among students was the military but she also went on to explain how government programs have played a huge role as well.

The many panelists were very interesting but one that stood out to me was CEO Steven Eitan. His company Exalenz is a breathing system that is able to test liver function. It is a very interesting machine because it cuts down on the wait time that occurs when people generally test their liver function. For example normally a person would have blood taken, then it would go to the lab, next it would be processed, and then returned back to the doctor’s office. This whole process could take up to 10-11 Days. With this Machine it takes less than an hour. The test is administered and then the results are printed in a ticker nearby. Then the physician can read it right on the spot. This is a great invention because I know for myself there have been many times when all I wanted was the test results right away but I was forced to wait over a week. Here Mr Eitan has clearly identified a problem and he is trying to fix it with his innovative product.

In addition to his presentation being very interesting the students and professors got into a very interesting dialog about marketing and how to target certain segments in the US. One of the students even mentioned trying to put these machines in Pharmacies as a way of getting consumers used to these machines and feeling comfortable using them. Especially in places like New York where many of the Duane Read’s have Nurse Practitioner on duty it could be very easy to administer the test there and even get the results all while at the Pharmacy.

After the panel we were lucky enough to get a tour of the Chiasma R & D center and testing labs. It was very interesting and we all had to put on gowns in order to keep the lab clean. I am personally not a fan of seeing mice or rats in cages being tested on but it is a necessity when testing these types of vital drugs. In addition the man giving us the tour explained how what they were being exposed to was just examining something very mild. It was nothing that would change the way they look, behave, or live. For me at least I felt that was allot more humane.

Now it was time for lunch. We all moved onto a falafel place near our next company Omrix. It was really good and I enjoyed  getting something small to help tide me over for later. These lunches have been an interesting experience because we have been eating truly authentic food that tastes really good. After today I have to say I feel completely emersed in the culture.

Eli our driver then picked us up after lunch and drove us over to Omrix’s headquarters. Omrix is now owned by Johnson & Johnson. We were greeted by some of the nicest people yet. They offered us all coffee and tea and welcomed us into their conference room. (this is not to say the other companies did not do the same this company as of to date was just exceptionally warm)

The presentation was led by John Gethin a very funny and interesting man. He gave a very in-depth description of exactly what the company will be doing when it is fully in production and the process it has taken the company to get to this point. He went onto explain some very graphic situations in which a person would use Biopharmaceuticals. For example excess bleeding they have a patch that is sawn on and the organism help stop and heal the body and naturally disengrate not harming the body. I found this absolutely fascinating considering how unique an idea it is. (At least from anything I have ever heard of)

While this is not my field of expertise I did enjoy the presentation and getting to know the process in which it takes to bring a company like this to full production.(which they are almost at)

Something that was also interesting about this visit was how they explained transitioning to a major corporation was. They seem very found of their new parent company Johnson & Johnson but there is always a learning curve going from being the decision maker to now having 3 or 4 layers above them before something can be approved. I asked them how that effects their business and they seemed to think it effected it only in corporate environment and culture. It did not seem to have an effect on their R & D and innovation. They did allude that having to get approval to do certain things can sometimes make fixing an issue a longer process instead of just fixing it as soon as it is brought to their attention.

After and interesting Q & A we moved onto the tour. Which was a lot of fun we all took pictures in our gowns and had a good laugh. It was interesting to see the plant and all the steps that they have to go through in order to be approved by the FDA and European Union Drug Administration.(Especially because these things are produced from human blood)

Some fun Facts:

  • Johnson & Johnson Paid 400 Million to buy the company
  • They cannot work on the sabbath (which hurts their production)
  • Cash Rich Company
  • Spend Allot of Money on R & D

After that visit was over it was time to go back to the old city. It was so beutiful to be back here. I went and purchased a souvenir for my boss at home and went back to The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was much less crowded to day and I was able to get up close to many of the special sites that I had a harder time getting to over the weekend. It was fun and we got some great Pictures. I went and visted the wailing wall again in order to bless my bosses gift. (I hope she likes it)

Then it  was time to depart in head back to Tel Aviv It was time for a good nap on the bus and I felt refreshed when we got back!

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