Initiative seeks to connect Missouri, Israeli bio-tech

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

A new initiative to connect bio-technical sciences in the State of Israel with the state of Missouri was outlined recently at a meeting of the council of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis at Hillel at Washington University.

Donn Rubin, chair of the Misssouri Technology Corporation and executive director of the Coaltion for Plant and Life Sciences, and Kelly Gillespie, executive director of the Missouri Biotechnology Association, presented the concept at the JCRC council gathering, attended by about 50 people.

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Rubin, who is also a vice president of the JCRC and chair of its Israel Committee, said, “The JCRC’s Israel Business and Technology Committee (IBTEC), gives the highest priority to developing connections between Israel, Missouri and St. Louis in the areas of business and technology.”

” IBTEC and JCRC have created a special committee, chaired by Dr. Heschel Raskas, who has expertise in business, scientific and research, and we are in the process of adding members to this committee,” he said. “Our sister communities in Boston, Cleveland and Atlanta are also doing a lot in this area. We are fortunate to be coordinating our activities with Kelly Gillespie, who has been at Missouri Biotechnology for three years, and is a leader and collaborator on many projects. He has been a great ally in the battle to preserve stem cell research and other issues.”

In his remarks, Gillespie described Missouri Biotechnology as “a trade organization dedicated to life sciences, and working with emerging small companies up to the level of large firms like Monsanto.”

“Our mission is to help make Missouri the best it can be in the area of life sciences, bio-fuels and renewable energy. We want to be collaborative and interactive, and where else could we find a more innovative and scrappy partner than our friends in Israel?” he said.

Gillespie added that “We recently took an audit trip to Israel, and were impressed by the worldwide access to technology and innovation found there. Israel is on the cutting edge of medicine, renewable energy, biofuels and so many other areas of mutual interest, that it is a very natural partner for our work.”

Gillespie said that Missouri Biotechnology has been at work for three years, “and we are still in the fledgling stage, but we have been met with nothing but excitement. We want to pursue renewable technology and bio-security, and we have started two recent new collaborations in Israel. We also are pleased with the existing presence in Israel by Sigma Aldrich, a St. Louis-based firm, which has two facilities there, and with the tremendous work being done by Hadassah/Hadasit.”

Looking toward the future, Gillespie said “we can identify co-investment opportunities and bring business development in our state to a new level. We want people to re-locate here, and to look to Missouri as the ‘Go-To’ place for such opportunities.”

“We have formed a Missouri-Israel Committee to work with Heschel Raskas and his committee, and we are planning a major event to be hosted by Missouri Biotechnology during the winter. We also hope to have a trade mission in the spring,” Gillespie said.

“During our earlier visit, we spent quality time in Jerusalem, Haifa and in your sister cities of Yokneam and Megiddo. We had six wonderful days in Israel, and Donn and I are still enthusiastically talking to each other about this exciting project.”

Lenny Frankel, president of the JCRC, thanked Rubin and Gillespie for their presentations and called the program “a most exciting endeavor.”