Genesis Prize announces winners of COVID-fighting competition

Winners announced in competition started by Natan Sharansky among Israeli companies to find innovative solutions to COVID pandemic.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Award for Israeli companies fighting COVID
Award for Israeli companies fighting COVID
Mark Neiman/GPO

The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) today announced the winners of the competition among Israeli high-tech and biotechnology companies in honor of Natan Sharansky. The competition aimed to identify the most promising innovations developed by Israeli companies to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement took place at the residence of President Reuven Rivlin during the small, socially distanced ceremony celebrating the legendary Jewish leader. Several guests attended in person, with hundreds of invitees from different parts of the world joining by video.

Sharansky was announced as the 7th Genesis Prize Laureate in December 2019 and directed his $1 million award to organizations fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of Sharansky’s award was used to fund a competition for Israeli biotech and high-tech companies developing innovative solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic. The contest, launched in partnership with Start-up Nation Central, recognizes Israeli companies that achieved technological advances aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating the effects of Covid-19.

Stan Polovets, Co-Founder and Chairman of GPF, said: “The competition in honor of Natan Sharansky showcased the impressive innovative potential of Israel’s biotechnology and high-tech sectors. Israeli companies and entrepreneurs are cementing their place in the world as leaders in the biotech sector and we are honored to recognize the best of the best in this field. Their contribution to global health is immense.”

Hundreds of Israeli start-ups and established organizations, such as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), took part in the contest. Twenty-one shortlisted companies made it into the second round of the competition, with ten winners announced today. The authoritative judging panel included prominent scientists, medical doctors and philanthropists. Among the judges were the leading Israeli philanthropist and founder of SpaceIL Morris Kahn, head of Startup Nation Eugene Kandel, and one of the world’s most respected physicians and the author of the Number One bestseller “The End of Illness” Dr. David Agus.

Winning companies announced today will donate funds to Israeli non-profits of their choice, working to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin congratulated Sharansky, saying: "Natan, you never rest. You took on new roles to promote Jewish unity, strengthen Israeli society, and fight anti-Semitism. It is, therefore, no surprise that you have chosen to use the $1 million Genesis Prize money and to give that money to philanthropic and high-tech initiatives that are trying to address the greatest challenge facing the world today, the coronavirus. The grants were made with a particular focus on the most vulnerable populations in Israel. Natan, as a Prisoner of Zion who turned into a Proud Defender of Zion, there is no one more deserving of this prize. You are a source of inspiration for us all. Mazal tov.

President Rivlin added: “And thank you to the leadership of the Genesis Prize for your important work, not only to strengthen Jewish pride and unity, but to do so through Tikkun Olam, by bringing together the Jewish People through helping those in need, both in Israel and around the world.”

Natan Sharansky said: “I was selected as the Genesis Prize Laureate a year ago and so much has changed in these 12 months. I am grateful to the Genesis Prize for the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to fighting the pandemic and am heartened by the spirit of humanity and innovation displayed by our high-tech industry. It is the most fundamental Jewish value to help the other and I hope other Israeli companies join this effort.”

Prof. Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-up Nation Central (SNC) and one of the few guests who attended the ceremony in person, commented: “Israel has ample experience in responding to existential challenges with creative and trailblazing solutions. This experience is proving handy in helping the world fight the spread and implications of Covid-19. Today's winners should be extremely proud not just for the honor they received, but their real and tangible contribution to the global battle against Covid-19".

The ten winning companies are:

  • Kamada, a plasma-derived protein therapeutics company, which completed manufacturing the first batch of its plasma-derived Immunoglobulin G (IgG) product for coronavirus patients.
  • Pluristem Therapeutics, a regenerative medicine company developing a novel platform of biological products to treat coronavirus.
  • Sight Diagnostics, which uses advanced computer-vision and machine-learning technologies in the field of blood diagnostics.
  • K Health, a personalized artificial intelligence-based health assistant, which shows patients how doctors have diagnosed and treated other people with similar cases.
  • Picodya Technologies, an in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) platform suitable for mass deployment at the point of care, from ICUs and hospital departments to field hospitals, clinics, and home care settings.
  • Israel Aerospace Industries, which has developed a model that uses artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning to predict the progression of the disease and coronavirus patients’ medical status.
  • Sonovia, the developer of the cutting-edge “SonoMask,” a face mask that has been proven to be more than 90 percent effective against coronaviruses, and 99.89% effective against other viruses.
  • Biobeat, which develops a wearable device for continuous, noninvasive, accurate, medical-grade monitoring of vital signs.
  • MyZeppi, whose technology is designed to help older adults and their caregivers “visit” each other through video calls via self-flying helium balloons.
  • EyeControl, an innovative communications solution for ventilated patients in ICUs.

About The Genesis Prize Foundation

The annual Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by TIME Magazine, honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. Legendary Jewish leader and activist Natan Sharansky was announced in December 2019 as the 8th Genesis Prize Honoree in recognition of his life-long advocacy for human rights, democracy, service to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Launched in 2013, the Prize is financed through a permanent endowment of $100 million established by The Genesis Prize Foundation.

Previous Genesis Prize laureates are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; actor, producer and peace activist Michael Douglas; virtuoso violinist and advocate for individuals with special needs Itzhak Perlman; sculptor and advocate for the rights of refugees Sir Anish Kapoor; Oscar-winning actress and social activist Natalie Portman; and owner of New England Patriots and founder of the leading foundation to combat anti-Semitism Robert Kraft. In 2018, the Genesis Prize Foundation honored U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to social justice and equal rights.

All laureates have selected causes that are important to them, and award funds in their honor have been donated to these causes. These initiatives have included support of social entrepreneurship based on Jewish values, inclusiveness of intermarried families in Jewish life, improving the lives of individuals with special needs, helping to alleviate the global refugee crisis, advancing women’s equality, and combatting anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.

About Natan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky was born in 1948 in Donetsk, Ukraine. He was a spokesman for the human rights movement, a prisoner of conscience and leader in the struggle for the right of Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel. Mr. Sharansky was a founding member of the Helsinki Group, which monitored violations of international agreements of different religious and national groups in the Soviet Union. He worked closely with Andrei Sakharov, the renowned Soviet human rights activist, and kept close contact with foreign media beyond the iron curtain.

In 1977, a Soviet newspaper alleged that Mr. Sharansky was collaborating with the CIA. Despite denials from every level of the U.S. Government, Mr. Sharansky was found guilty and sentenced to thirteen years in prison, including solitary confinement and hard labor. In the courtroom prior to the announcement of his verdict, Mr. Sharansky in a public statement said: "To the court I have nothing to say – to my wife and the Jewish people I say "Next Year in Jerusalem". After nine years of imprisonment, due to intense international campaign led by his wife Avital, Mr. Sharansky was released on February 11, 1986, emigrated to Israel, and arrived in Jerusalem on that very day.

Upon his arrival to Israel he became active in the integration of Soviet Jews and formed the Zionist Forum, an umbrella organization of former Soviet activist groups dedicated to helping new Israelis and educating the public about absorption issues. The final chapter of the historic struggle for the release of Soviet Jews was the historic rally of over 250,000 in 1987 during Gorbachev's first visit in Washington of which Natan Sharansky was is the initiator and driving force.

In 1996, he established the Yisrael B'Aliyah party in order to accelerate the integration of new immigrants into Israeli society. He served in four successive Israeli governments as Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

In 2009, Natan Sharansky was appointed Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The mission of the Jewish Agency is to guarantee the future of the Jewish People by strengthening the connection of every Jew to the State of Israel and to the Jewish People.

In 2018 he received the highest Israeli award - the Israel Prize for the ingathering of the exiles.

He is also the author of three books: Fear No Evil, The Case for Democracy and Defending Identity. He remains a champion of the right of all people to live in freedom and believes that the advancement of human rights is critical to peace and security around the world.