from the September 2008 issue

"Why is there only One Teva?

Teva Pharmaceuticals was the result of the merger of three companies: Assia, Zori and Teva. The development of this group reflected the rise of the pharmaceutical industry in Israel. The first milestone was a warehouse for drugs established in Jerusalem in 1901 by Haim Solomon and Moshe Guttel Levin.

The initiative to establish a local pharmaceutical industry arose in the early 1930s. Nazi Germany was boycotted by the Jews in Palestine. As a result the main source of medical supplies was cut off. However, Jewish chemists began to arrive in Palestine from Germany and other European countries. One consequence being that expertise in pharmaceuticals rapidly accumulated. The pharmaceutical industry gained momentum when the Second World War broke out. Local manufacturing was almost the only source for drugs within the countries in the region.

Unlike Israeli companies like CheckPoint and Comverse that were formed to address global and international issues Teva Pharmaceuticals came about as a result of a critical need within the country.

The company was blessed with visionary management that foresaw the future emergence of the generic drug industry. Since generics were exact copies of "name" drugs their price was considerably lower. Major international pharmaceutical companies refused to license their products to Teva. Teva got around the limitations by synthesizing these drugs in their own laboratories. Inadvertently this marked the onset of generics.

As a result of a management decision Teva obtained the rights to produce Copaxone from the Weizmann Institute. In due course copaxone became a blockbuster drug whose annual sales are reaching $1.0b. Copaxone lengthens the period between multiple sclerosis attacks.

After completing the purchase of Barr Pharmaceuticals Teva's annual sales will exceed $10b. and its number one place in the world of generic medicines will have been firmly secured.Teva's rise is primarily credited to the management of Eli Hurvitz. It was Hurvitz's foresight that the future lay in generics that gave the company its direction..In a recent interview with IHTIR, Eli Hurvitz stated:

"The dynamics of the generic industry are influenced by the growing number of people going on pension, people who are sicker and have less money for medicinals. As a result the outlook for generics has become more expansive. When our generics are launched, in a few days we have 90% of the market and in a few weeks the whole market," says Mr. Hurvitz.

Weizmann Institute scientists' new technique gets to the root of cancer In two complementary studies, Weizmann Institute scientists have developed a new method for reconstructing a cell's "family tree," and have applied this technique to trace the history of the development of cancer. The quest to understand a cell's path of descent, called a cell lineage tree, is shared by many branches of biology and medicine as gleaning such knowledge is key to answering many fundamental questions, such as whether neurons in our brain can regenerate, or whether new eggs are created in adult females. So far, only tree lineages of tiny organisms, such as worms, which possess only a thousand cells, or "branches," have been determined. Now, Prof. Ehud Shapiro of the Institute's Biological Chemistry, and Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Departments, together with Doctoral students Dan Frumkin and Adam Wasserstrom have developed a novel way to reconstruct, in principle, trees for larger organisms, including humans. The human body is made of about 100 trillion cells, all of which are descendants of a single cell - the fertilized egg (zygote). Cells that have undergone a small number of cell divisions are relatively close descendants (akin to branches representing children and grandchildren etc., on a family tree), while some cells may have undergone hundreds or even thousands of divisions ("distant cell generations"). Knowing the number of cell divisions since the zygote, known as the depth of cells, would enable scientists to address questions about the behavior of the body under physiological and pathological conditions. Until now, estimates of cell depth were based on theoretical calculations and assumptions, but Shapiro provides a practical way of determining cell depth precisely.

The concept behind their new method is simple: Previous research indicated that each time a cell divides, harmless mutations are introduced, and that "cell relatives" of distant generations tend to acquire more mutations, drifting away from the original DNA sequence of the zygote. Inspired by this, the team developed a noninvasive, accurate and systematic way, involving DNA amplification and computer simulations, to quantitatively estimate cell depth on the basis of the number of mutations in microsatellites (repetitive DNA sequences), and has applied it to several cell lineages in mice. According to the team's estimates, as reported in PLoS Computational Biology, the average depth of B cells - a type of immune cell - is related to mouse age, suggesting a rate of one cell division per day. In contrast, various types of adult stem cells underwent fewer divisions, supporting the notion that they are relatively quiescent.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report September 2008

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