For decades, the United States and Israel have walked together on an uninterrupted path toward greater cooperation and interdependence in the medical field. Bilateral agreements and cooperation between governments, medical schools and hospitals have accelerated improvements in health outcomes in both nations. Recently, a movement has begun in Washington to put greater financial muscle behind this important component of the United States-Israel relationship with a multi-million dollar targeted appropriation. It deserves full bipartisan support, but Congress shouldn’t stop there.
In less than eight weeks, the EMPIL-DOC Act has attracted tremendous support in both the House and Senate. The bill, first introduced by Reps. Chris Pappas, Lance Gooden, Thomas Suozzi and David Kustoff and quickly followed by Sens. Ted Cruz and Chris Coons in the Senate, authorizes the appropriation of $12 million for the development of artificial intelligence, drugs and vaccinations, respiratory assist devices, diagnostic tests and telemedicine to combat COVID-19.
We recognize that no other nation is being considered by Congress for such a unique investment, and for good reason. Israel’s health tech, biotech, medtech and pharmaceutical sectors – as well as Israel’s hospitals – are second to none. Congress is making a well-informed move that could yield positive results.
Hadassah’s two hospitals in Jerusalem, which were founded and are financially supported by Hadassah members in the United States, are at the forefront of Israel’s battle in this must-win war on COVID-19. Doctors and researchers are hard at work with clinical trials for drugs that could potentially treat infected patients.
We are hopeful for results that can benefit the people of our nations and all nations. Passing this legislation can help deliver results. Should this targeted medical partnership move forward, it would send a strong signal that America values the expertise and ingenuity of its allies – first and foremost. With that as a starting point, the possibilities are endless, but only if Washington recognizes the opportunities.
The value of this appropriation is far greater than whatever clinical work or research $12 million might support, which may well be significant in its own right. It’s about something bigger – a reorientation of how America engages with the world on questions of health and medicine – and Congress should strongly consider other measures to enhance bilateral medical partnerships with Israel as quickly as possible.
Clinical trials for new drugs and medical devices at Hadassah’s hospitals – like all clinical trials in Israel – are already received and accepted in the United States without delay. Israel has been a site for complete data acceptance since 1997. But new biotech and medtech advancements born in Israel can be approved for use in the United States more quickly, which would benefit the American people.
Congress should look to build upon the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act by insisting the Food and Drug Administration establish a regional office in Israel, and both Congress and the president should work with Israel to find creative ways to further enhance our medical partnerships.
Doing so is imperative for patients and families suffering from COVID-19 and a tremendous range of other health issues. Hadassah’s medical team is constantly developing new treatments, like a recently developed oral insulin pill, for example, that could revolutionize diabetes care. Hadassah officials are also testing a drug to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Today there are more than 1,700 clinical trials underway in Israel for a plethora of medical challenges, and nearly 350 are recruiting or are already underway at Hadassah.
Each new treatment under development is a possibility for patients and families, and each new trial carries the weight of their hopes for a day where a breakthrough improves their lives.
COVID-19 has sped a re-evaluation of nations best suited to stand beside America, particularly in the health sector. Israel is standing out for its work and contributions, and it would be wise for leaders from both parties to draw nearer to an unyielding ally and a powerhouse of innovation with some of the most agile, industrious and forward-thinking professionals in the world.
Rhoda Smolow is the national president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.
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