Innovation and Israel have been synonymous for years. One major reason Israelis lead the world in so many out-of-the-box ideas is the incredible education they receive at world-class institutions like the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Top of mind during the past year has been a race to combat the Covid 19 pandemic. Many of the brightest minds around the world have been developing not only vaccines, but testing and treatment options as well. In a collaboration between Israelis and Canadians, Vancouver-based company SaNOtize has developed a potential game changer for fighting not only this pandemic, but future viral outbreaks as well.

Dr. Gilly Regev, CEO of SaNOtizeCEO and co-founder of SaNOtize, Dr. Gilly Regev, is a product of the Israeli “Start-Up Nation.” She earned her PhD in Biochemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In collaboration with Dr. Chris Miller, she founded SaNOtize. The two shared a vision that Nitric Oxide (chemical name: NO), would help combat a number of human maladies. NO is a molecule that is naturally produced in all humans and has been used successfully to treat a condition called “Blue Baby” for over 30 years. SaNOtize has been developing ways to utilize its antimicrobial and immunomodulating properties to attack a variety of harmful microbes to improve human health since the company was established in 2017. In early 2020, it was clear that they needed to accelerate research into targeting the Covid19 virus with their unique technology.

Their patented Nitric Oxide Nasal Spray (NONS) targets the virus as it incubates and multiplies in the nose, killing much of it before it can enter the rest of the body. Clinical trials have been underway for months. “We have shown significant viral reduction in people that were infected and with symptoms. We believe that if you use the nasal spray in the first few days of the infection, you will prevent the progression of the disease,” reported Dr. Regev.

For those seeking a proactive approach, NONS can be used to protect against full-blown infection. Dr. Regev explained, “This is a post exposure prevention, just like a hand sanitizer. The recommended dose is twice a day nasal spray. For those who are positive tested, early on in the disease, recommended dose is 5-6 times daily for 9 days.”

Although the product is not yet approved by Health Canada, both Israel and New Zealand will soon be stocking it in pharmacies as an over-the-counter treatment. Regev said it will cost less than $50 (CAD) for a month’s supply. Both the spray and the novel bottle that administers the treatment were designed and are being produced in a factory in Ness Tziona, just south of Tel Aviv. Why produce in Israel when the company is based in Vancouver? Regev said simply, “Israel can get things done quickly and efficiently. We have tried to get support from the Canadian government for a facility in Canada in parallel but did not get it.” She noted that what would normally take 3 years to accomplish has been done in 8 months. Monthly production should be close to 500 000 units of NONS by June.

SaNOtize will submit applications to Health Canada within a month for approval and once the bureaucratic machine churns out its answer, Dr. Regev believes NONS will be available first as a prescription and then hopes it will quickly be approved for over-the-counter sales soon. Unlike Covid vaccines, NONS does not require refrigeration so it has potential to change outcomes for people all over the world when it is more widely approved.

The Torah calls the Jewish people “A light unto the nations.” Technological innovation in Israel is the modern embodiment of this concept and educational institutions like the Hebrew University are the basis for innovation. Dr. Regev explained how attending the Hebrew University helped her achieve the success she is experiencing today. She said, “Doing a PhD at the Hebrew U gave me skills to critically analyse and solve problems. It also gave me the connection with other scientists who can help solve problems. One of my best friends whom I met while at the Hebrew U is still my go to brilliant chemist until today. Israelis are connected all over the world and the Israeli/Jewish network is very helpful in business.”

For more information on SaNOtize, check out their website and keep your eyes peeled for where this company goes next.

Editor’s note: Dr. Gilly Regev, Hebrew U alumna and CEO of SaNOtize, was recently featured in CFHU’s “Where Are They Now?” spotlight series.