A new collaboration between Rutgers University in New Jersey and Tel-Hai College in Israel’s Galilee region will focus on formulating advanced edibles to tackle obesity and to manage diabetes, food allergies and other nutrition-related issues spiking to epidemic proportions in developed countries.

The New Jersey-Israel Healthy, Functional and Medical Foods Alliance will support scientific research, technology commercialization, startup incubation and “a world-class business cluster for the development of the healthy, functional and medical foods industry” in both Israel and New Jersey, according to a memorandum of understanding signed on September 18 at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, a business incubation and economic development program.

“Functional foods” are defined as having a health benefit beyond basic nutrition, while “medical foods” are meant to be consumed or administered under a physician’s care. The related field of botanical drugs, also to be explored through the academic and business exchange, consists of vegetable, plant, plant algae or fungi to provide health and medical benefits.

Many Israeli companies are involved in food-tech but not in a dedicated hub.

“This could be an area with international recognition,” says Erel Margalit, who spearheaded the alliance as a member of the Israeli Knesset’s Economic Development Taskforce and a member of the nonprofit foundation Israel Initiative 2020. Margalit also founded Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and was its managing partner from 1993 until 2011, when he entered politics.

“This is an amazing new frontier. If I were still running JVP I’d make a major fund around functional and medical foods, and I hope others will do so,” said Margalit, speaking with ISRAEL21c from Boston, where he was meeting with potential investors in the public-private partnership.

“Israel’s high-tech expertise was instrumental in the communications, big enterprise and medical equipment era, and it’s about time we put this expertise to work in one of the biggest themes that the high-tech community needs to address worldwide: food and health.”