As Israel eased into a new normal in 2021 – even with deadly COVID variants in our midst – NoCamels put a spotlight on the return to work, Israel’s evolving tech ecosystem – which boasted a record increase in deals – and the post-pandemic lifestyle.
Israel’s high-tech sector closed a record-breaking year in 2021, with startups raising a staggering $25.4 billion in the first 11 months of the year, despite the ongoing pandemic, according to a Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) report. More Israeli-founded companies entered unicorn status than ever before and Israeli innovation left its mark in numerous tech sectors including cybersecurity, agriculture tech, mobility, and climate tech.
NoCamels covered Israel’s advanced coronavirus vaccine campaign, which later included booster jabs, shots for kids ages 5 and up, and a 4th vaccine trial which kicked off this week. But we also paid attention to ongoing trials for oral vaccines developed by Israelis, new nasal sprays that aided coronavirus symptoms, important COVID-19 technologies, and studies that showcased drugs that calmed COVID inflammation.
Here are some of our most popular articles of 2021:
Acclaimed US photographer Spencer Tunick, known for his statement-making, large-scale photoshoots that stage naked people at famous landmarks, returned to Israel in October to complete a new photoshoot at the Dead Sea 10 years after first enlisting 1,200 nude Israelis to do so in 2011. The Dead Sea has changed drastically in the last 10 years and Tunick continues to draw attention to the importance of preserving it.
He was also on hand to help launch a virtual exhibition, of his past works at the Dead Sea Museum, a new museum currently being built in the Israeli desert city of Arad some 25 miles (41km) from the Dead Sea.
SaNOtize, the company co-founded by Israeli-Canadian scientist, Dr. Gili Regev, had a stellar 2021 as it launched an antiviral nasal spray for use against COVID-19. In July, Dr. Regev told NoCamels that the spray solution has proved effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and its variants Alpha, Beta, Gamma, in lab tests conducted at Utah State University’s Antiviral Research Institute. Later, it obtained the same results against the Delta variant.
Earlier this year, Enovid was granted an emergency use authorization as a medical device by Israel’s Ministry of Health and began a local production line. It has been approved for people 12 years of age and older.
The company began selling its Nitric Oxide Nasal Spray (NONS) in Israel and Bahrain and later reached an agreement with Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, an Indian pharmaceutical company, to manufacture the spray for India, Myanmar, Singapore, and most of South East Asia.
An Israeli study led by Prof. Yaakov Nahmias of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in cooperation with Prof Shlomo Maayan, Head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Barzilai Medical Center in the southern city of Ashkelon, found that the antiviral FDA-approved drug Fenofibrate (Tricor) lowered severe progressive inflammation markers in hospitalized COVID-19 patients within 48 hours of treatment. Fenofibrate is an oral medication to help lower cholesterol by treating abnormal blood lipid levels.
As part of this study, 15 severe-hospitalized COVID-19 patients with pneumonia requiring oxygen support were treated at the Ashkelon hospital. In addition to the usual standard of care, patients were also given 145 mg a day of Fenofibrate (Tricor) for 10 days and continuously monitored for disease progression and outcomes. Prof. Yaakov Nahmias called the results “astounding.”
The guest post written by The Cannigma writer Ben Hartman highlighted the use of CBD to calm inflammation in seriously ill COVID-19 patients. The majority of those patients who received CBD were released from the hospital in under a month, in a trial conducted recently at Beilinson Hospital in the city of Petach Tikvah.
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The trial indicates that CBD “has a positive impact on a number of inflammatory markers that occur with Corona patients.
The cannabinoids in cannabis are said to be able to modulate the body’s immune responses through their interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
Israeli biopharma company Nasus Pharma, a company developing powder-based intranasal products, was featured earlier this year for a spray made by the firm that proved highly effective in lab tests against two prominent coronavirus variants, according to a study.
Taffix, is a powder-based nasal spray administered to the nose that blocks viruses from entering the nasal passages, preventing an infection. It is a precaution offered to those in close-knit communities with high rates of infection, or to people at risk, such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions such as diabetes or chronic lung diseases like asthma.
It’s been an incredible year for the Israeli tech sector, which welcomed at least 30 unicorns over the course of they year, more than any other year before it.
Clues that it would be a super year for Israeli unicorns – private companies over $1 billion – were on the horizon back in April when the company welcomed 10 Israeli-founded companies into the unicorn club in the first quarter alone, more than half of the total amount of unicorns in 2020. There was also a boom in companies pursuing mergers through blank-check SPACs (special purpose acquisition company) to bypass traditional IPOs and go public at skyrocketing valuations.
In honor of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day, NoCamels compiled a list. You can also read a more detailed list of 2021 unicorns here.
Towards the end of 2021, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art welcomed the first-ever Israeli exhibit featuring the extensive artwork of acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama opening on November 15. The 92-year old contemporary artist is known for her extensive polka dot themes and infinity installations. Calling her “one of the most important artists of our time,” the museum said that bringing Kusama’s work to Israel for her first major exhibition in the country took years of waiting, planning, and logistics. There are still some tickets available starting in March 2022.
In May, as the pandemic continued, Israelis also faced riots, civil unrest, and conflict between Israel and Hamas. Meanwhile, NoCamels’ resident Israeli humor expert continued to observe how Israelis use humor as a way to cope with emergency situations and crises. Israeli comedians used jokes, memes, and cartoons during the difficult time.
“Looking for the comedy in this situation is the only way some people can handle the stress,” Lior Halfon, a comedian/actor/entrepreneur/artist ever celebrated for his role as Itzko, a beloved character on the popular 2008–2014 Ramzor television series, tells NoCamels’ Viva Sarah Press, “It’s a system of survival.”
After a year where nothing felt normal, the 2020 Olympic Games were set to begin in July 2021 with numerous safety protocols and few in-person spectators allowed. Israel ended up collecting four medals during the famous sporting event. But before any of that, NoCamels featured some of the 89 athletes attending the Summer Olympics in Israel’s biggest Olympics delegation to date, including two athletes who ended up winning gold.