Success Stories

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The National Institute for Biotechnology
in the Negev Ltd.
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

The NIBN’s mission is to pave the way from innovative and applied research-driven discovery to commercialization. Five of NIBN’s technologies have been out-licensed in the past few years.  Two technologies served as the basis for establishing new bio companies, and three technologies were incorporated into the pipeline of bio/pharma companies.

Enspire Bio – This incubator bio company at the University of California was established in 2018 based on a small organic molecule discovered by Prof. Orian Shirihai and his team at the NIBN. The novel molecule stimulates mitochondrial turnover and clearance which is suppressed in the etiology of several age-associated diseases (including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease), as well as in type 2 diabetes (T2D). Enspire Bio

Pink Biopharma Ltd. – This incubator bio company of FutuRx Israel was established in 2018 based on an anti-PCNA antibody discovered by Prof. Angel Porgador and his team at the NIBN. FutuRx is an accelerator company established by Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, OrbiMed Israel, and the Israeli Innovation Authority of the Ministry of Economy to transform breakthrough discoveries into novel medicines. The anti-PCNA antibody is a novel immune checkpoint inhibitor against a protein expressed primarily by cancer tissue, which acts as an inhibitory ligand for NK cells. Disrupting this interaction results in pronounced anti-tumor NK activity, representing a promising novel approach for enhancing cancer immunity. Pink Biopharma Ltd.

Directed Evolution in the Treatment of Psoriasis – Using the directed evolution approach, Prof. Amir Aharoni and his team at the NIBN engineered the extracellular soluble domain of the Interleukin-17 receptor (IL-17R) that binds with high affinity to the natural IL-17 protein and inhibits the proinflammatory signals associated with psoriasis progression. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects millions of people, causing great suffering and costing billions to healthcare systems worldwide. The technology was licensed to Valin Technologies Ltd.

Genetic Manipulation of Cultured Prawns – Prof. Amir Sagi and his team at the NIBN developed a novel biotechnological aqua technology that turns male prawns into a special type of female prawn that yields only male progeny of cultured prawns. The technology is the first to implement RNAi in the field of aquaculture, producing breeding stocks with only male progeny. These transsexual prawns that only have male descendants can potentially double the profits for farmers and reduce the price of prawns on the market by half. The freshwater prawn industry has an annual market of 450,000 tons. The technology was out-licensed to the Tiran Shipping (1997) Ltd.

A Novel Platform for Transplantation Devices – Prof. Alon Monsonego (NIBN and BGU) and Prof. Smadar Cohen (BGU) developed a novel platform for transplantation devices that provides an immune regulatory environment in a highly vascularized macroporous alginate scaffold. The immune regulatory device is composed of alginate-alginate-sulfate with affinity-bound TGF-b, IL-10, VEGF, and PDGF-b, all of which are human recombinants. A sulfated alginate scaffold with insulin producing cells or islets for the treatment of diabetes was licensed-out to Orgenesis.

A unique success story emerging from the NIBN has led to the reduction of Bedouin infant mortality

Prof. Ohad Birk and his team conduct population genetics research and have deciphered the molecular basis of nearly 30 severe human diseases, including some of the most common hereditary diseases found in Bedouins and Sephardic Jews. These research findings have been applied with the implementation of routine screening testing for the prevention of these diseases with proven success. There has been a 30% reduction in infant mortality in the Negev Bedouin community in the past few years. Some of the diseases discovered are also common in the Arab world, with implications for large communities throughout the Middle East. Prof. Birk’s research has major implications for Jews as well: PCCA (progressive cerebello-cerebral atrophy) and PCCA2, deciphered in Prof. Birk’s lab, are the two most common severe hereditary diseases in Sephardic Jews. Free carrier testing for PCCA is now routine for Jews of North African and Iraqi ancestry, similar to Tay-Sachs for Ashkenazi Jews.