If you have a background in the life sciences and a degree in a health-related field that is not recognized in Israel, you can train to become a CRA (clinical research associate) or to work for a CRO (clinical research organization), which allows you to conduct clinical testing and to start working within the pharmaceutical field.
It must be emphasized that if you have no actual work experience in the industry, it is not easy to obtain employment in the life sciences industry – even with an academic background in the life sciences – Completion of a CRA training program allows you entry into this market, albeit at an entry level; you can then work within your company to obtain promotions and move up within the field. With experience, one can be promoted to become a testing supervisor.
The CRA training courses are offered (in Hebrew) at:
International Pharmaceutical Companies
Some of the International pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, MSD, Eli Lilly and Sanofi Aventis, have branches in Israel. They are particularly welcoming of English speaking Olim who have experience working with the FDA and the European Union, in industry sales and marketing.
Israeli medical standards are respected internationally and Israel is recognized for its innovative medical research, therefore, global companies are interested in testing their products in Israel.
Many of these companies are located in the center of the country, particularly in Hertzliya, Petach Tikva and Tel Aviv. Because of the global nature of these companies (and the resulting need to converse in fluent English), Olim can easily become involved in interfacing between the local offices in Israel and the main offices situated overseas. However, on the local level, a good working knowledge of Hebrew is often necessary.
Note that international companies that have local offices in Israel tend to focus on importing and marketing products, as opposed to research and development. Generally, salaries are higher in international companies than in local ones.
Israeli-Based Pharmaceutical Companies
While Israel-based pharmaceutical companies usually offer lower salaries than their international counterparts, they may offer employees some excellent benefits. Teva, in particular, provides a wide range of benefits and services to its employees including stock options and bonuses, and a high level of stability and professional growth.
In addition to Teva, there are many smaller players, some of which produce generic drugs while also developing new medications. Examples include:
Biotechnology in Israel is primarily comprised of small companies, located primarily in the Rehovot area.
Nanotechnology is a small, continually expanding part of the biotechnology field; it is expected to continue to grow. There are several large international nanotechnology companies which have a presence in Israel, such as Intel, HP, and Tower.
There are currently about 400 chemical plants operating in Israel and over 28,000 employees in this industry. This number has been on the rise over the past decade.
The Israeli chemical industry can be divided into four major fields: oil refineries and the petrochemical industry, producers of fertilizers and chemicals based on minerals found in Israel, producers of pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. While the petrochemical industry is mainly located in the northern part of the country, the other three are concentrated in the South.
Ramat Hovav, located approximately eight miles southeast of Be’er Sheva, is at the center of the chemical industry in the South, hosting 17 chemical factories and concentrating over half of Israel’s chemical plants in a single 5,500 acre industrial park.
The Ramat Hovav site provides employment for nearly 4,000 local workers, and the factories located there generate over $1.5 billion in annual export revenues. Israel’s main hazardous waste disposal facility is also located in Ramat Hovav and processes organic, inorganic and solid waste through chemical-biological treatment, incineration and land-filling.
Ramat Hovav is home to the following large companies:
- Makhteshim Agan Industries, which is Israel’s main producer of chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides.
- Tircovot Brom, which produces bromine compounds intended for industry and agriculture, including fire retardants, fertilizers and chemical filters.
- Teva (and Chimaghis, a smaller company), which produces raw material for the pharmaceutical industry.
These are some of the smaller enterprises located in Ramat Hovav:
- Koffolk Fine Chemicals, the producer of advanced chemical intermediates for global pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies, as well as other specialty markets.
- Cupoloc Darom, which produces fodder for animals, raw material for medicine industry and vitamin additions for the food industry.
- Maxima, which performs the separation of gases for aviation and medical purposes.
- Matil-Tech, which recycles metals such as Tungsten and batteries that contain lithium and nickel-cadmium.
- Aviv, which recycles PET plastic bottles.
Ramat Hovav also houses companies that supply gas to residents of the Negev. The Environmental Services Company (ESC) is a government company that handles toxic waste, by recycling, neutralization and burial.
The chemical industry in Southern Israel is also engaged in the production of minerals from the Dead Sea. These include potash, bromine, magnesia and metal magnesium. From the Dead Sea brine, Israel produces 1.77 million tons of potash, 206,000 tons of elemental bromine, 44,900 tons of caustic soda, 25,000 tons of magnesium metal, and sodium chloride.
The overall revenue from the Israeli chemical industry has been on the rise, with almost fifty percent of the total revenue from this industry coming from exports. Israeli chemical companies are known to use advanced production technologies and to produce high quality products. The growth can be attributed to a substantial increase in skilled manpower as well as governmental support for research and development through investment, grants and tax benefits.
The development of medical devices is a strong field in Israel and it is continuing to grow. Israel has the human resources to excel in this field, having a large pool of trained mechanical, electronic and electro-optical engineers. Additionally, military funding has, historically, been used to develop technologies which have applications in medical devices. This technological expertise is then often channeled into private companies for further innovation and development.
As opposed to the pharmaceutical sector which requires the investment of many millions of dollars and approximately 10-15 years from the development stage to the sales stage due to FDA and/or approvals from other regulatory bodies, medical devices have a relatively short R&D to market cycle.
Because the development cycle is much shorter and less expensive in the medical device industry than the pharmaceutical industry, it is easier for companies to obtain funding from investors. Since 2012, there has been an increase of almost 30% in investments. Several new funds have been started whose focus is the life sciences industry. The largest include: Orbimed ($220 million) and Pontifax ($88 million).
Most of the companies are extremely small – up to 10 staff members. Those professionals with a background in GE medical devices, in particular, will find that their expertise is very marketable in Israel.
There is great demand in Israel for professional experience in areas such as RA (Regulatory Affairs, interfacing with the FDA) and QA (Quality Assurance); monitoring and experience working with FDA regulations are in high demand. Note: A Ph.D. without experience in the field may not find it easy to break into this industry.
Incubators are generally located in outlying communities, though some are found in the center of the country. They had originally been run by the government but many have been privatized over the past few years. Salaries in the government sector are relatively low. For individuals interested in working part-time, technological incubators can be a good place to look.
If you’re searching for work, it is always good to connect with VCs because they are aware of industry developments and are well connected with a wide variety of “players” in the field. While there are many VCs in Israel, the following are among those involved in the life sciences industry:
For a full listing of VCs, see www.science.co.il.
Patent Attorneys and Agents
Only licensed patent agents/attorneys who have passed the Israeli patent exams are authorized to file patents in Israel. There’s high demand in high tech as well as in the life sciences.
Many areas of the life sciences industry involve extensive communication in English. A fluent level of Hebrew – while always important to one’s personal integration – may not be essential to obtaining work in this field. Israeli companies that want to market their products abroad will look for employees with mother tongue English, and basic Hebrew will suffice. Companies that require marketing, sales and business development within Israel need employees with strong Hebrew skills as well as an understanding of the Israeli mentality and market.
Some exceptions are production Managers, QA professionals and other positions that require interaction with production. Since these jobs generally require communication with workers who frequently do not speak English, they require a fluent level of Hebrew.