A tale of two companies

10/31/2018 | Daniel Leaderman

A tale of two companies

10/31/2018 | Daniel Leaderman

A pair of Israeli companies that recently set up shop in Maryland are each looking to conquer the U.S. market with their innovative tech platforms—one focused on helping doctors assess patients’ health risks and the other on revolutionizing speech therapy services.

IMNA Solutions is using artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology to help doctors quickly analyze and summarize patient information from a number of different sources—such as electronic health records, raw data, and doctors’ examination notes—providing an array of useful information for both the physicians and the patients.

The platform, known as IMNA Health, “helps real-time risk assessments, helps with clinical trials, and can minimize paperwork and administrative work by 60 percent,” said co-founder Meirav Naor. Since the technology integrates with existing health record systems, it should be easy and cost effective for providers to adopt, she said.

IMNA Health incorporates military-grade, two-key technology from a previous IMNA product called ListenApp, which allows users to detect if their phone calls are being monitored or recorded, Naor said.

The company was founded by intelligence-sector veteran Israel Haikin in 2014, and has 20 employees, mostly in Israel. As IMNA Health was being developed, it became clear that the company that the real market for the product was in the United States, and a U.S. presence was necessary “to understand the market inside and out,” said Naor.

So IMNA established an office in Rockville and recently opened a second one in Arizona to serve customers in the western states, Naor said.

INMA has been raising money through grants, and is working to partner with relatively small operations—cancer clinics, diabetes treatment programs, stem cell therapy providers, and sports medicine specialists, for example—to continue testing and developing the product before looking to partner with a larger hospital or health system, Naor said.

A New Vision for Speech Therapy

The second company, AmplioSpeech, grew from the personal life of cofounder Yair Shapira, whose son speaks with a stutter. The company provides automated, digital speech therapy to clients on computers and mobile devices, and supplements them with human intervention only when needed.

This approach is particularly well-suited for children because it’s fun and encourages practice and repetition, said AmplioSpeech general manager Frank Baitman, a Baltimore resident who oversees the company’s U.S. operations.

The three-year-old company has 22 employees and a community of 50 speech-language pathologists. Most employees are in Israel but three work out of office space in the Clipper Mill development in Baltimore.

The U.S. is a critical market for the company because the country approaches speech therapy differently than other nations. In Israel, for example, speech therapy is covered by health insurers and HMOs, Baitman said. But in the U.S., speech impediments are considered a disability and must be accommodated—that means the K-12 education system provides speech therapy at an average cost of $3,000 per child per year, he said.

Overall, this translates to a $6 billion annual market for in-school speech therapy, Baitman said.

“We believe our solution will result in accelerated progress,” he said. “The average child is in speech therapy for three to four years in the U.S. We can shorten that. The child will complete therapy sooner, will not be pulled out of the classroom as often, and won’t worry about not participating because they’re self-conscious about their speech issue.”

Following its success in Israel and Europe, AmplioSpeech entered the U.S. market and has quickly begun to deliver its digital speech services to charter schools outside Dallas, Texas, and partnered with a Baltimore-based company that operates special-education schools in Pennsylvania to get its product into the hands of students, Baitman said. The company hopes to be in Maryland schools in the coming months, he said.

MIDC in the USA

Both IMNA Solutions and AmplioSpeech came to Maryland with help from the Maryland/Israel Development Center, a public-private partnership that promotes bi-lateral trade and investment between Israel and the Free State.

Both Naor and Baitman credit MIDC Executive Director Barry Bogage with helping their companies build relationships and make connections in Maryland, including helping AmplioSpeech connect with Maryland schools and build brand awareness.

“The MIDC is a great asset to young companies trying to build a U.S. operation,” Baitman said.

For Bogage, the establishment of the two companies in Maryland highlights the important connection between the state and Israel.

“We’re excited to welcome two more Israeli high-tech companies to Maryland. Their breadth of technologies and the locations they chose in Maryland shows that Israeli companies see Maryland as a great market from which to open the U.S. market,” Bogage said in a statement. “It was a pleasure for the Maryland/Israel Development Center to assist with both companies.”

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