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Winning Start-Up Fights AIDS, Biowarfare

A winning Israeli start-up uses nanotechnology to fight HIV/AIDS and other killer viruses. Nano-cells could protect from bio-warfare, too.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 7/9/2012, 4:42 AM

Erez Livneh accepts start-up award
Erez Livneh accepts start-up award
Koby Koenkas

The elite 8200 association has chosen its winners in 2012’s Startup Competition. This year’s first place winner is Vecoy Nanomedicines, a firm that uses nanotechnology to fight deadly viruses.

The company has created a totally new way of fighting viruses. Its nano-scale virus traps mimic human cells in order to lure viruses. The viruses are then trapped and destroyed.

The nano-scale “traps” differ from existing treatment for viral illness by targeting viruses before the viruses can affect human cells. The traps are non-toxic to the human host, avoiding the adverse side effects typical of current treatment.

Moreover, viruses cannot develop a resistance to the traps, as by doing so they would become resistance to human cells as well.

“Essentially, we are creating antibiotics for viruses,” said founder and CEO Erez Livneh, a graduate of the Weizmann Institute of Science. “The Vecoy technology will fundamentally change the treatment of viral infections.”

Treatment of cells, photo by Shmulik Ittah & Yaniv Amir


Livneh first unveiled his idea two years ago at the Singularity University, an elite science program held in a NASA base in California. Response to the concept was overwhelmingly positive, and when he returned to Israel, he set about making it a reality.

Over the past months a team of scientists led by Livneh has been testing the patent-pending nanotechnology, and the nano-traps that will serve as medicine have achieved preclinical proof-of-concept, passing test-tube and animal testing.

The company is entering an additional investment round this year, and plans further work in developing the cell-like particles to fight specific illnesses. The goal is to develop treatments for a variety of viruses, among them HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis-C, and the flu. In addition, Vecoy Nanomedicines aims to use the technology toward treatment for lesser-known viruses, treatment for animals, and defense against biological warfare.

Specifications for the nano-cell traps can be changed quickly to allow the technology to be used against new viral illnesses. This could be its most important use, Livneh said. “Our planet is a haven for viral outbreaks like never before in the history of the world,” he warned. Densely populated areas coupled with rapid international travel “make it impossible to locally contain a viral outbreak, as we discovered during the swine flu pandemic.”

“Viruses are one of the greatest perils to the human race,” he said. “We at Vecoy Nanomedicines have set our minds to change that."