Jerusalem’s biotech future

Jerusalem has been a key word on the google search list today. How did Bibi relate to the future of the holy city? Will it please Obama? Will the Palestinians like it?

I will ditch my ache to give some sarcastic responses. Because about 10 miles from where Bibi spoke to the world, Jerusalem’s new mayor, Nir Barkat, was making his own declarations about Jerusalem. In many ways, they are more immediate and could have a more direct impact on the populace of all backgrounds.

Barkat is no regular politician. He has a successful track record in hightech. He took  hold of City Hall as the regular power brokers turned in on themselves. To survive long-term, he will have to produce quick and meaningful change.

Thus, today, he launched his biotech initiative. Over the coming 5 years, he has pledged to raise approximately US$25 m for research carried out in Jerusalem. This will be over and above any new financial incentives for the sector.

To give some perspective to the importance of this statement, note that some of Israel’s biotech powerhouses, which are quoted on overseas capital markets, are located in Jerusalem. Teva is the most notable example. Estimates suggest that nearly half of all biomed research is carried out in Jerusalem.

In a press statement,  Dr Shirley Kutner, Executive Director of BioJerusalem, the Jerusalem Development Authority added how, “Despite the economic situation, we have seen a 20% growth in the number of companies and a 34% growth in the number of biomed employees in town relative to 2006. …… The investment on behalf of biomed companies is expected to top $350 million over the next five years.

She added that the life science industry in the capital hasalready yielded two innovative drugs, Doxil and Exelon, which originated from the Hebrew University and are now sold at over a billion dollars per year.

So while all these Muslim, Christian and Jewish scientists will begin to work together over new projects, Obama and his mates will continue to decipher what Bibi really meant in his speech. Maybe the road to peace and prosperity for all is to be found in the science labs in the heart of the world’s holiest city and not in the mouths of politicians.

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