Arab woman aims to blaze a trail in Israel's high-tech sector

Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:42am EST
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By Tova Cohen

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel is proud to call itself a "Start-up Nation", with more tech firms listed on Nasdaq than any other country outside the United States and China. But two elements are often missing from that success story: women and Arabs.

Doctor Amal Ayoub is hoping to change that.

An Arab-Israeli from the town of Nazareth, Ayoub is the founder and chief executive of Metallo Therapy, a biomedical start-up that has developed technology to better monitor the development of malignant tumors.

She has brought her company to the brink of commercial success -- pre-clinical safety studies and plans for regulatory approval are underway -- thanks to investment from the office of Israel's chief scientist, from health-technology investment fund Arkin Holdings, and from NGT3, an Arab-focused incubator.

But it has not been a straightforward path for the 38-year-old mother of two, who got a first degree in physics at Technion -- often referred to as the MIT of Israel -- and her PhD in biomedical engineering from Ben-Gurion University.

"It is difficult for Arabs to be accepted at Israeli organizations," said Ayoub."It's difficult to be integrated into Israel's high-tech and biotech society."

One of the biggest hurdles she faced was the fact that the country's leading hot-bed of innovation is the Israeli army -- which very few Arab-Israelis, especially not women -- join, where relationships built up during national service can form the basis for future success.

"Networking is not efficient in Arab society," Ayoub said, referring to the lack of any similar structure to bring Arab entrepreneurs together for years at a time and develop lasting bonds.   Continued...