Out of Nazareth: Growing Israeli Biotech Firm Receives Recognition

For Alpha Omega Co. USA Inc., winning the Eagle Star Award in June was a milestone for the Israeli company’s nearly 20-year journey to bring medical devices into the United States.

Designed to treat neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, the company’s sophisticated microelectrode technology allows doctors to stimulate and record the brain’s natural electrical impulses.

One of only two companies globally to offer the costly neurosurgical technology, the firm has now sold more than 500 devices to hospitals and teaching institutions worldwide, including Emory University, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic to name a few.

Established in 1993 by CEO Imad Younis as a small Nazareth-Illit, Israel based engineering firm, Alpha Omega now runs its entire North American operations out of its Alpharetta office.

The Atlanta office has also grown from two employees in 2000 to seven full-time employees presently, including two recent bioengineering graduates from the Georgia Institute of Technology, George Evagoras and Jill Walthall.

Although the company does not publically release their financials, Mr. Younis said Alpha Omega has grown on an average rate of 10 to 15 percent a year worldwide, particularly in the U.S.

“So we’ve seen tremendous growth in the last few years, and we’re doing business across the country,” Anthony Decarolis, the newly appointed CEO of Alpha Omega USA, told GlobalAtlanta.

With more than 500,000 people in the U.S. estimated to be living with Parkinson’s, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, thousands of patients may be eligible for neurological treatment, which often costs between $60,000 to $120,000 per brain surgery, Mr. Decarolis said.

And in the next few years, doctors may also begin using the technology to treat conditions like depression, obesity and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and Alzheimer’s disease, pending tests before the Federal Drug Administration, he added.

With approval, Alpha Omega hopes to expand into these markets as the technology and techniques become more sphisticated, Mr. Younis said.

“It’s huge,” Mr. Younis told GlobalAtlanta. “This technology is a big step forward for humanity and will expand our ability to treat neurological conditions.”

While he aknowledges the apprehension some may have towards brain surjury, in particular, he said he wants doctors to consider the technology for their patients.

“We want [our technology] to be as non-invasive and safe as possible,” he continued. “This is our challenge as engineers.”

Although Israeli companies typically don’t consider the Southeast as a natural destination, Atlanta has seen considerable investment over the years by Israeli-based companies like Alpha Omega, said Guy Tessler, the vice president of business and technology for the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce Southeast Region that gave the award to the company at the chamber’s 20th anniversary celebration.

Mr. Tessler attributes the growth to the chamber’s work in recruiting Israeli comapnies, introducing them to the benefits of the region and connecting them with business partners.

For example, about 12 years ago the chamber helped Given Imaging Ltd., the Yoqneam, Israel-based gastrointestinal imaging company now known for its commercial line of “pill cams,” establish its North American operations in Duluth, Mr. Tessler said.

He now estimates that 38 Israeli companies now have operations in Atlanta with more than 70 companies investing in the region.

In terms of investment in Atlanta’s biotech and health information technology sectors overall, the city is growing at a tremendous pace. In the next five years, Atlanta will become of the country’s leading centers in these fields, said David Hartnett, vice president of economic development at the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

As a former top executive with Given Imaging, Mr. Hartnett heads up biotech outreach initiatives for the metro chamber, which is focusing heavily on attracting international businesses, including Israeli companies like Alpha Omega.

“We’ve been bullish in recruiting the biotech industry here because we recognize the economic impact these companies can have in Georgia,” Mr. Hartnett said.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development has also pushed for development of biotech firms in the state, attracting Deerfield, Ill.-based pharmaceutical giant Baxter International Inc. in April to pledge to invest more than $1 billion in the state.

Officials estimate the deal will bring 1,500 employees to the state.

“The Baxter deal was the single biggest win the history of Georgia for the biotech sector,” Mr. Hartnett said. “It was a huge deal.”

For more information on the Baxter story, click here.


Photo Caption: Anthony Decarolis, CEO of Alpha Omega USA, gives GlobalAtlanta a demonstration of the company’s neurological equipment.

This article first appeared on GlobalAtlanta July 2.


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