Tel-Hai College is a college located in Tel Hai in northern Israel. The college sees itself as "an agent of social and economic development in the highly strategic Upper Galilee region." Because of its location at the country's farthest northern border, Tel Hai's mandate extends beyond the area of education to include opportunities for individual and community development and closing social and economic rifts.
Our iGEM project was kick-started as an initiative of our team leader – Almog Angel a 3rd year student in Biotechnology (B.Sc.). While browsing through the internet, Almog came across the iGEM competition for the first time. As time was limited and ample work was left to be done, he pulled together a team with members from Tel Hai College from the fields of Food Science, Biotechnology and Economics. After talking to the college staff and management and not taking "no" for an answer a team of students was created, all of which are aiming to successfully represent the college and Israel's northern regions in the upcoming contest.
After we received permission from the college to create our team, and we recruited 2 Masters students and 7 Bachelors’ students, we began working non-stop. When we chose Cystic Fibrosis as the focus of our project, we knew that aside from developing medicines and medical treatments for the patients, that there are so many additional ways throughout which we can support the hundreds of patients currently living in Israel.
We initiated meetings with the Israeli CF Foundation, in order to begin working with them hand in hand, and in order to gain a deeper understanding as to what the patients truly need most right now. We quickly understood that many CF Care Centers are being closed down due to a significant lack of funding, and we realized that this was a perfect place to intervene and try to help.
We organized lectures, campaigns, a soccer game- and all of this with the aim of raising awareness for the disease, and with the hopes of regaining so much of the funds lacking that are needed to run the facilities. This was extremely demanding as it required us all to travel all throughout the country, make constant phone calls to donors, celebrities and more.
Another challenge in our path to success was raising the much needed funds, in order to enroll in the contest and pay for all supplementary expenses. We have tackled this challenge by first of all, being cordially assisted by an Economics & Management student – Mr. Shimon Avraham in making a business plan dedicated to fundraising, shooting and producing a clip, and opening a crowd-funding initiative.
“HeadStart”: Israeli crowd-funding platform
Later on, we were introduced to many businessmen- potential angel investors. We met these angels and pitched our iGEM initiative and its potential to them, and after many trials, Mr. David Friedman, a very generous investor, provided us with funding. Shortly after, another investor provided us with additional funding. The next stage was meeting politicians from Israel's parliament – the Knesset: we met the treasurer and the minister of education, presented iGEM to them and showcased why it is so important for the team to partake in iGEM and the importance to the state of Israel. This journey has led to a generous grant from the ministry of science, and later on another well-known investor – Mr. Issi Sharezki, has provided us with additional funding for helping develop Israel's north region. The total amount raised assisted us in funding our enrollment and all other expenses, and the remaining balance after paying all the fees was donated to the CF Foundation of Israel.
As we continued to make progress in developing the idea, we understood the need to protect our intellectual property, in order to make sure our idea could not become public knowledge.
If our idea will not be protected the pharmaceuticals company will not commercialize the idea, as it
will not be able to block future competitors from commercializing same idea, thus, not getting the full potential of revenue from sales of our idea, and maybe even not covering its expenses in the development of the idea. This has opened a door to a whole new world of the legal aspects behind science.
We called our initiative "C-Cure: Gene Therapy", we aimed to develop a "proof of concept" – sufficient for a pharma company in order to continue developing the medicine and advancing it into its pipeline, and finally taking it to market with the hopes of assisting sick patients. Eventually, a patent was filed guided by Dr. Doron Goldberg head of the biotechnology department at Tel-Hai college.