Israel to Invest $275 Million in Digital Health Project

(Bloomberg) -- Israel approved a plan to invest 1 billion shekels ($275 million) to digitize the personal health records of its nearly 9 million citizens to help develop new drugs.

The government, in partnership with German software giant SAP SE, will gather information from Israeli volunteers and create a database for academics and foreign health care companies to use in the development of preventive medicines and personalized care, according to an emailed statement from the prime minister’s office on Sunday.

Israeli doctors have been documenting patient data on digital platforms for years, and can now examine clinical data on more than 98 percent of the population, the statement said.
The government expects the plan to attract foreign investment and encourage partnerships with local entrepreneurs.

The Israeli database “is a huge asset and we want to give it to researchers, developers and companies,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the statement. “The interest of global companies is tremendous. I’ve already met many of them and they all want to come here.”

New Industries

Netanyahu has touted digital health as an area where he believes Israel can become a global leader, along with autonomous-driving technology and cyber security.

“We are developing the industries of tomorrow. In effect these are the industries of today,” he said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “They are based on a combination of three things: Very large databases, artificial intelligence and connectivity.”

Israel aims to capture about 10 percent of the $6 trillion digital-health care industry, Netanyahu said. That represents even greater potential than auto technology and cyber security, he said.

At the heart of the project will be “Mosaic,” a national information infrastructure initiative that will include a digitized sample bank for research purposes. The project could eventually lead to the establishment of a national center for genetic sequencing.

“We are upgrading the quality of the digital medical file so that future doctors will be able to make better diagnoses,” said Eli Groner, director-general of Netanyahu’s office. “We are certain that this decision will be of high importance.”

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