Last week, Ben Gurion University researchers made an “accidental” discovery, when testing an experimental anti-inflammatory drug, that could signify a breakthrough in the treatment of deadly infections. My immediate thought was how “lucky” the BGU scientists were - but in reality, the discovery followed the proscribed use of methodical testing procedures and meticulously careful observations. Here are some further recent cases of where Israelis definitely do not rely on “luck” when it comes to vital innovations and activities.
Traditional cancer chemotherapies depend on the laws of chance in that sufficient numbers of cancer cells will be destroyed alongside the (unwanted) death of normal, healthy cells. Several Israeli companies, however, are working on removing this random, “splatter-gun” approach. One of these, Quiet Therapeutics, has developed the “GAGomer,” a new class of nano-particle that specifically targets tumors and blood cancers. Another Israeli biotech, Compugen, has announced positive initial experimental results for two Antibody-Drug Conjugate (ADC) treatments. ADC therapy uses antibodies to target proteins present at high levels in cancer cells, releasing a toxic payload to kill the cells.
Some say that those who inherit a high risk of cancer are simply “unlucky”. That may indeed be the case, however with genetic screening, it no longer needs to be a question of luck as to whether the onset of cancer is detected and treated early enough to save their lives. So it is fortunate that researchers at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem have discovered a genetic mutation that can identify those at risk of colon and uterine cancers. Similarly, doctors and researchers no longer need to rely on luck when examining patients for the early onset of Parkinson’s disease. Patients can now be monitored continuously, using smart watches linked to smartphones. The data is then transmitted to an advanced analytics platform developed by Intel Israel that can handle 300 observations per second from each patient.
On a Syrian street, a 23-year-old man was unfortunate to have been hit by a bullet that shattered his lower jaw and blew his teeth to bits. Luckily for him, he was rushed across the Israeli border and taken to Haifa’s Rambam hospital where doctors implanted a custom-made 3D-printed titanium jaw in a pioneering operation. One day after surgery, the patient was eating and speaking. Meanwhile, a Palestinian Arab baby with heart problems suffered a heart attack whilst on his way to Jordan for treatment. Luckily for him, IDF medics arrived to resuscitate him and evacuated him and his grateful parents to Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital.
Many Israeli children were “lucky” to enjoy a couple of days playing in the snow that fell across the country. Following a request by the Palestinian Authority, the IDF have been helping to clear snow blocking roads to the PA city of Ramallah, helping to clear flooding in Tulkarem and pushing a not-so-lucky Palestinian Arab taxi driver out of frozen mud. Overseas, the Philippines has been very unlucky with the weather, as typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) has just devastated a country still reeling from last year’s typhoon Haiyan. Luckily, an IsraAID emergency response team has again responded quickly with medical relief and humanitarian aid.
Anyone unlucky enough to have lost their water supply due to a burst water main will appreciate the monitoring systems from Israel’s TaKaDu. The water utilities that have engaged TaKaDu’s services don’t wait for a lucky phone call from a dutiful member of the public and instead are saving billions of liters of water otherwise lost through leaking pipes.
Having proved that Israelis don’t rely on luck, I will conclude with two recent news stories where fortune (or something else) must have been involved. First, it was lucky that art historian Nirit Shalev-Khalifa stopped to answer her cell phone when she was driving away from Jerusalem. The tour guide that called her had just happened to be visiting Jerusalem’s Ades “Great” Synagogue and seen someone begin some very amateurish restoration work. Nirit made a quick “U” turn, just in time to save the Stark Murals – an early 20th Century masterpiece of Jerusalem’s Syrian Jewry.
Finally, a baby faun in Hebron had a lucky escape from being eaten by poachers. Israeli police were busy uncovering a weapons and drugs cache when they heard noises coming from inside a barrel. Instead of dismissing the noise as just rats, they checked the barrel and found the faun (a protected species in Israel) chained up inside it. The faun was transferred to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo for medical treatment.
Put your trust in Israeli ingenuity - you won’t believe your luck.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
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