The Merage Institute’s Leadership Program for Life Sciences Executives

The Bulletin by the BE Forum

May 2016

The Merage Institute’s Leadership Program for Life Sciences Executives 

By: Tom Koevary, Co-Editor

When you hear Nimrod Lev speak about the Merage Institute’s Leadership Program for Life Sciences Executives he attended in California last year, you cannot but be impressed. It was an intense learning experience that not only imparted a great deal of theoretical and practical knowledge, but also provided participants with entrepreneurial skills which Lev says he uses on a regular basis.

The Merage Institute is a privately funded foundation located in California whose programs are all aimed at “improving quality of life through education”. The Institute has a keen interest in promoting trade as a vehicle by which to encourage the growth of economic relations between Israel and the United States. They do so by investing in the people, specifically entrepreneurs, who can help build the Israeli economy and forge serious business ties with the US.

Paul Merage, the founder of the Institute, is a Jewish émigré from Iran to the US who, together with his brother David, founded a highly successful business which was sold to Nestle for $2.6 billion. Since then, they have been very active in philanthropy, giving back to the community in various ways, one of which was establishing the Institute.

The institute promotes its goals through, among other initiatives, specialized leadership training programs that focus on US marketing strategies. These programs are offered to qualified Israeli executives in the life sciences, security, military, and IT sectors, and more. Merage’s programs emphasize, in their words, “highly effective approaches to successful marketing, negotiation techniques, applied networking and sales strategies, finance, and legal and procurement issues concerning conducting business with and within the United States.”

Of particular interest to the members of the Bio-Executive Forum is the Leadership Program for Life Sciences Executives which focuses on enhancing a company’s ability to operate in the United States and to succeed in the global marketplace. The program is targeted exclusively towards Israeli life sciences startup companies from the medical device, diagnostics, digital health, biotech and pharma industries.

Lev was one of the qualified life sciences executives who was fortunate to be chosen to attend the program. According to Yishay Aizik, Executive Director of the Merage Institute, 18 out of approximately 120 candidates who applied last year were accepted. Lev is CEO and co-founder of SleepUp Ltd., a company in the field of sleep disorders treatment. He spoke very highly of the program which he attended six months ago. He described the course as a mini MBA program during which participants attend classes from 8am-6pm for two highly intensive weeks. The lecturers are top in their field and some fly in especially for the seminar. Every night the group was invited by members of the Jewish community who “opened their houses and their hearts” to him and his colleagues. During those evenings members of the group would pitch their companies and get focused feedback and  pointed questions on their presentations.

Merage Bio Course 2015

“You learn a great deal,” said Lev, “you meet interesting people, and learn to interact and respond to questions. If night after night you hear the same question, you get to realize what is really important for potential investors”. Bridging the cultural gap is also important. Lev, who worked several years in the US for an Israeli company, still felt he had lots to learn about “how to do business with Americans”. What was most helpful, he said, was that he sharpened the skills he needs to successfully negotiate with US companies and investors.

But, one of the most interesting things that happened, beyond the mentoring and the learning, was the bond that was formed between the 18 strangers who were thrown together for two weeks of intensive study and work. They became like a family helping and encouraging one another even though they were, in effect, competing for the same potential investment.

Forum members should note that the 2016 program is scheduled for Sept 18-30th. The deadline for applications is July 1st. Except for the flight, which participants must pay for themselves, all expenses are covered by the Merage Institute. Yishay Aizik says that, while the program is open to any Israeli medical/life-sciences startup companies, the course is largely geared towards device companies, and they are likely to gain most from the experience.



An additional program run by the Merage Institute is its annual “45+ Entrepreneurs’ Competition” the intent of which, in their words, is to “encourage and support entrepreneurs over the age of 45 to develop unique ideas / projects / ventures / technologies into a promising, successful business”. Seven finalists were selected for this event from among approximately 300 applicants. This year both the 1st and 2nd place winners were from the medical device field.

The grand prize went to iSilla, which is developing a revolutionary smart chair for children with cerebral palsy. They received a $100,000 grant to help them develop a beta prototype. The funds are not the only or the most important prize. The winner is invited to participate in the Leadership Program for Life Sciences Executives and will gain access to highly skilled and experienced professionals who will mentor their project and help to propel it forward.

The competition and the innovation and drive of this year’s finalists shows that the Israeli entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive and kicking, regardless of age.

Merage 45+ Entrepreneur Winners



© 2016, The BioExecutive Forum

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