Executive Director, Middle East Affairs
April 29, 2021
Defense and national security interests have always been the centerpiece of America’s relationship with Israel. That’s why the first member of President Biden’s cabinet to visit Israel was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and why three more F-35 fighter jets arrived in Israel this week as part of America’s commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge. But national security is no longer just about fighter jets and missile defense systems.
As the world continues to confront the greatest health crisis of our time, protecting our citizens and institutions from harm is extending beyond the battlefield and into the public health domain. Health security is national security. The pandemic has also underscored the need for strong collaboration across borders with partners like Israel to drive health innovation, manage issues in our supply chains, and promote economic recovery.
Israel has been in the news a lot throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – first as one of countries hardest hit by the pandemic – and now as the most vaccinated country on earth.
Throughout the pandemic, Israel has also showcased its impressive innovation in health technology. Israel has a booming scene of entrepreneurs working at the intersection of hi-tech and health care, generating cutting-edge mobile health devices, AI-powered diagnostic platforms, novel therapeutics, and new digital tools to improve the access, quality, and precision of care. While the global pandemic has highlighted the potential for many of these technologies, the opportunity to build stronger U.S.-Israel ties in health care transcends this crisis.
The Chamber’s U.S.-Israel Business Council, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic and Trade Mission at the Embassy of Israel, and the Israel Innovation Authority recently organized the first of its kind bilateral health innovation dialogue which brought together leaders from American and Israeli government, business, academia, and research institutions. Discussions during the event focused on emerging policy and technology issues in health care, highlighting the importance of building new relationships that will expand U.S.-Israeli partnerships.
Congressman Chris Pappas, who co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that passed in December to designate funding for a joint program with Israel to support R&D of effective treatments and responses to COVID-19, said at the forum, “There is great appetite among Members of Congress to deepen relationship that we have with Israel to go beyond just security support and talk about other ways that our nations can partner. We have an indelible bond [with Israel] and this is one way we can put it to great use to protect the health of Americans, Israelis, and people around the world.”
There are several opportunities for growth of U.S.-Israel health partnerships, some of which are highlighted below:
- Digital Health. Israel has one of the largest health databases on patients, conditions, and treatments anywhere in the world and is working to make the nation’s pool of health data available to researchers, entrepreneurs, and international companies. The power of Israel’s data management was seen recently in the partnership between Israel’s Ministry of Health, Pfizer, and BioNTech, which provided the first real-world evidence demonstrating the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine – an important signal to other countries mounting vaccine campaigns.
- Medical Devices. Israel is home to about 1,000 medical device companies and is a leading country in terms of both patents per capita and in absolute number of patents. That's why many multinational companies have research and development activity in Israel, including Abbott, Medtronic, and General Electric. With a huge influx of internet-connected devices coming to market, coupled with faster 5G technologies, this sector will continue to experience dramatic growth.
- Pharmaceutical Innovation. Half of civilian research at Israel’s universities and research centers focuses on the life sciences though increasingly technologies driving biomedical breakthroughs come from beyond the life sciences sector. New vaccine discovery and delivery, early detection and treatment of disease, and the application of nanotechnology for biomedicine are emerging from the multidisciplinary approach of bio-convergence whereby chemists, physicists, computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians collaborate. Israel’s small size and deep interconnectivity are an ideal breeding ground for radical innovation.
- Cybersecurity for health infrastructure and supply chains. Cybersecurity attacks compound the strain on medical facilities and health care companies by disabling relevant systems. Israel is one of the world's leading developers of cybersecurity solutions. In 2020, more than 30% of the global venture capital investment in cybersecurity went into Israeli companies (a 70% jump during COVID). Israel has been a key partner for U.S. industry in securing data, critical infrastructure, and supply chains. In the wake of COVID-19, there will be a growing need to secure complex medical, food, and manufacturing supply chains and protect medical facilities, which Israel can help fill.
Beyond driving health benefits to American patients, these technologies can have a major impact on the U.S. economic recovery. For example, in 2018 Teva Pharmaceuticals, Israel’s leading health care company, supported more than 57,000 jobs, contributing $15B to the GDP, and saving the U.S. healthcare system more than $40B. This is just the tip of the spear. There are hundreds of Israeli healthtech companies in the U.S. bringing new technology to hospitals and public health systems and supporting jobs across the country.
For more information about the Chamber’s work to advance U.S.-Israel health cooperation, our proposed policy roadmapprovides recommendations to both governments for unlocking the potential of this growing sector.
About the authors
Executive Director, Middle East Affairs
Joshua M. Kram is executive director for Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he oversees programs and policy initiatives to broaden commercial relationships between the United States and markets in the Middle East.