The Israeli company
Vecoy Nanomedicine became a media sensation last year with itss virus “decoy”
designed to outwit the world’s worst viral enemies before they do any damage.
The biomed technology platform tricks a virus into committing suicide, a tactic
which could eventually neutralize viral threats like Ebola, hepatitis, HIV and
scary chemical and biological warfare.
Now, researchers from the American space and startup community have taken
notice. In an upcoming space mission, the Vecoy platform will be tested to see
how it works in zero gravity.
Vecoy was selected from 1,200 applicants worldwide and is one of eight startup
companies to win the chance to go to space. Vecoy won the second prize given by
the Center for Advancement of Science in Space, the non-profit research and
development wing of the International Space Station US Laboratory.The research
will be done as part of the MassChallenge Startup Accelerator.
Erez Livneh at NASA's Ames Research Base. Photo by Matt Rutherford.
The prize also came with a not-so-shabby $45,000, but company strategist Eitan
Eliram says the biggest prize is, obviously, the flight to space.
“It is amazing for us, and we are proud to be a small Israeli company going
into space. And we want to share our pride with the ecosystem in Israel,”
against biological warfare
Prior to joining Vecoy over the last year, Eliram attended Singularity
University, a multinational program based at NASA’s Ames Research Base in
California — the same program that inspired Vecoy’s founder Erez Livneh to
create the company.
Eliram, now the ambassador for Singularity University in Israel, says the
United States is particularly interested in the Vecoy platform as it
investigates building a futuristic arsenal against a potential viral threat
from biological warfare.
"We have good connections with the bio-defense industry,” says Eliram. “NASA is
paying attention just as other governments are paying attention.” Everyone is
seeking a solution that does not yet exist.
now that our technology is a special nano-medical device that may compete with
other treatments, certainly anti-virus treatments; and it may provide some
protection for other technologies that cannot really deal with viruses the way
Eliram, who has a
doctorate in new media, compares Vecoy’s technology to the way Israel’s Iron
Dome protects citizens from missiles.
“The Iron Dome does not allow missiles to hit the ground, but disarms them
mid-air. Vecoys do the same, not allowing the virus to hit the human cell and
cause damage,” he said.
“To date, 100
percent of the pharmaceutical companies in the world are waiting for the virus
to come into a cell before they try to stop it. We are saying: Let’s target it
before it gets in.”
Vecoy cannot be
reverse-engineered and used against its creators. Typically, vaccines are a
weakened version of the virus, but as an armed “decoy,” Vecoy “is protecting
the cells or is taking away the dangerous elements of an introduced virus,”
“We are also
thinking about the protection of humanity here.”
The company is now
in the initial planning stage to determine what kind of test will be carried
out in space.
Neither Eliram nor Livneh will be accompanying the mission. This is for the
realm of astronauts. But they do expect the experiment to bring back useful
information that might protect their loved ones one day.
“In space, we hope
to be able to learn how our Vecoys maneuver to the threat and how easy it will
be for the Vecoy to find the virus. From this we can find a way to improve the
design of our nano-scale virus traps,” says Eliram.
When the mission is
complete, Eliram hopes the space test will help them upgrade the technology.
Already, they have started test runs with an Israeli-American company Enzootic,
which tries to cure shrimps and crabs from viral infections. The Vecoy
technology is working to deliver potential treatments to a farm in Vietnam.
company seeks a round of financing of about $5 million to propel its technology
to pre-clinical trials and the outer limits of medical advancements far beyond
what humanity has possibly ever seen.
statement? Not for two humanitarian math-lovers who have studied with NASA
engineers and scientists –– and then inspired them.