The common Jewish blessing, “may you live to be 120”, might soon become a reality for a growing number of people. However, in order to prevent the blessing of longevity from becoming a curse, governments and societies must find solutions for rapidly emerging aging-related challenges in areas such as medicine, retirement financing, food production, and environmental protection, which could threaten humankind if they are ignored.
Advances in modern medicine have led to a dramatic increase in the human lifespan. Although most babies born in 1900 did not live past age 50, life expectancy at birth is at least 81 years in several developed countries. The number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050, accompanied by a 1000% increase in the number of centenarians.
A critical question is whether healthcare systems will be able to cover the increasing costs of caring for the elderly. As the need grows for medicines to treat chronic conditions and expensive medical procedures, the economic costs will become prohibitive. Developing innovative, disruptive medical technologies will be critical if societies are to address the health needs of the aging population as well as the cost for their healthcare.
One such innovation is regenerative medicine, which has become synonymous with the medicine of the future. Rather than treating the symptoms of chronic diseases, regenerative medicine aims to help the body to cure itself by healing and regenerating using its own physiologic mechanisms. Many countries already understand the importance of reducing treatment costs while improving patients’ quality of life. They promote and encourage the regenerative medicine field through fast-track approval pathways for regenerative medicines, thereby reducing the development costs of these treatments and accelerating their commercialization.
The rapid approval of regenerative medicines provides multiple advantages. First, it enables companies to pursue the development of medicines that could increase lifespan. It also provides patients with faster access to lifesaving medicines and reduces healthcare costs. Enhanced regulatory pathways, which attract companies to the field, already exist in Japan, the world leader in longevity, and in Europe. Soon, they may be created in the U.S. as well.
Providing solutions for the challenges presented by global aging can be a significant opportunity for the Israeli innovation and technology industry. Israel’s considerable intellectual capital should be harnessed to innovate in the healthcare field, as well as other fields such as food-tech, agriculture and eco-tech. IATI, the Israeli umbrella organization for the high-tech and life-sciences industries, operates to promote these fields to enable the Israeli economy to prosper in a competitive global environment. IATI generates hundreds of connections and opportunities for Israeli entrepreneurs and companies, conducts meetings with delegations and executives from mega-corporations and public and governmental entities, and supports the local innovation and development eco-systems in high-tech and life-tech.
Israel can and should become a global leader in developing solutions for the challenges that accompany the aging of our populations. Due to the dramatic move led by the Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon last summer, following which the Economic Policies Law reduced tax rates for medium and large high-tech companies, whether Israeli or Foreign, which already operate in Israel or which plan to come because of the exemptions, provided that their central R&D activity would be in Israel. The Finance Ministry estimates that the transfer of operations of foreign companies to Israel would generate hundreds of millions of NIS per annum and is also expected to result in the hiring of more employees to positions that would be less likely to be downsized in light of the importance of these jobs to the companies’ tax structure requirements. The creation of a supportive environment for advanced technology industries may propel Israel to the forefront of global efforts to successfully resolve the critical issues facing the world’s populations– it’s not impossible, it is happening right here, right now.