| Tova Cohen |
TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel is proud to call itself a “Start-up Nation”, with more tech firms listed on Nasdaq than any other country outside the United States and China.
But two elements are often missing from that success story: women and Arabs.
Doctor Amal Ayoub is hoping to change that.
An Arab-Israeli from the town of Nazareth, Ayoub is the founder and chief executive of Metallo Therapy, a biomedical start-up that has developed technology to better monitor the development of malignant tumours.
She has brought her company to the brink of commercial success – pre-clinical safety studies and plans for regulatory approval are underway – thanks to investment from the office of Israel’s chief scientist, from health-technology investment fund Arkin Holdings, and from NGT3, an Arab-focused incubator.
But it has not been a straightforward path for the 38-year-old mother of two, who got a first degree in physics at Technion – often referred to as the MIT of Israel – and her PhD in biomedical engineering from Ben-Gurion University.
“It is difficult for Arabs to be accepted at Israeli organisations,” said Ayoub.
“It’s difficult to be integrated into Israel’s high-tech and biotech society.”
One of the biggest hurdles she faced was the fact that the country’s leading hot-bed of innovation is the Israeli army – which very few Arab-Israelis, especially not women – join, where relationships built up during national service can form the basis for future success.
Ayoub managed to raise $1.2 million to get Metallo Therapy off the ground and is in the process of raising a further $2 million to complete safety studies in animals and start full clinical trials.
She aims to expand the company to the point that it becomes an attractive acquisition target for a large drug company.