“Itamar Medical is a medical device company which developes, markets and sells diagnostic medical devices based on the PAT™ (Peripheral Arterial Tone) signal. The PAT signal is a non-invasive “window” to the cardiovascular system and the autonomic nervous system.” (company website)
That means that the company has pioneered a method of checking various signals within the body via a small device clamped to one of the fingers and transmitting data to a small device (about the size of a wireless microphone transmitter that speakers get embarrassingly tangled in when they forget to unclip it from their belts) rather than undergoing extensive, expensive and unpleasant testing. Similar to Chiasma, which we visited on Tuesday, Itamar has, with advanced levels of engineering, developed a way to take an existing technology and extend it to cases which the medical world had so far been unable to extend it.
The main example we discussed was sleep apnea which is caused by obstructions in the airflow circulating throughout the body. It causes insufficient sleep due to an incomplete sleep experience and sudden and significant drowsiness by day. In order to test for sleep apnea patients are brought into a laboratory and wired up with dozens of wires and are then monitored as they sleep. Dr. Yaron joked that anyone taken out of their home, wired up, and instructed to sleep while technicians keep watch will have trouble sleeping! He showed us the WatchBand, a small device developed at Itamar which conducts the same test at home, with no wires, and no one watching.
Before Dr. Yaron got around to talking about Itamar he spent most of our visit talking about Israel itself and how the hi-tech scene got started in the first place. We were at least halfway into our meeting when the thought crossed my mind that he hadn’t said anything yet about his own company! But he was giving such an insightful lecture on the Israeli hi-tech and entrepreneurial scene that I just wanted him to keep going. It was almost like a synopsis to Start-Up Nation with a few extra chapters thrown in.
The main concept is the fact that Israel is a tiny nation surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile neighbors and the only way to survive was to develop a hi-tech defense industry. Innovative minds then facilitated the transfer of knowledge from the military into civilian commercialization. Check Point is an example of Israeli military know-how commercialized and used as a firewall by 100% of Fortune 100 companies! Nice Systems was started by seven military buddies and provides technological security solutions. Given Imaging used missile technology to replace invasive surgery with a PillCam that is simply swallowed.
He shared with us an interesting observation about Israeli management capabilities versus American management capabilities. Many Israelis have started successful companies and have then sold them off to foreign corporations to manage. Israelis seem to struggle with the task of managing the business themselves. Dr. Yaron theorized that this has to do with where management skills are acquired. In Israel they are acquired in the military which has a more domineering method than is relevant to the business environment. Foreigners, typically Americans, bring professional management to the table, besides for a worldwide mature distribution chain.
Dr. Yaron also talked about how India and China are starting to do their own hi-tech research at much cheaper rates and Israel, in order to stay cutting-edge, needs to explore new higher-tech fields such as internet applications, clouds, med-tech, and clean-tech.