Reem and Imad's Younis journey to success
In the early 1990s Imad and Reem Younis, a married Arab couple from Nazareth who are graduates of Israel's premier engineering school, the Technion, began to develop proprietary tools to aid in locating the exact point in the brain to target, a problem that had been incredibly challenging. Given the obstacles the couple had to overcome – from breaking societal norms to being Arab Christians in a predominantly Jewish country – the company's rise is every bit as remarkable as its innovation.
Imad and Reem pursued neuroscience after graduating from the Technion, and in large part as a result of their interaction with Hagai Bergman and his research on the brain. In 1993, Bergman introduced the couple to Benabid, the godfather of deep brain stimulation. Eventually, the four began to collaborate. Imad got hooked because it's so rewarding. "Every time I see our devices," he says, "I am struck and say, 'Wow, this device really helps patients.'" As for Reem, helping those with Parkinson's is personal. Her father had the disease, and while he wasn't able to benefit from Alpha Omega's devices, Reem is thankful she's able to help others.
Alpha Omega devices act as a GPS inside the brain that guides doctors to the correct location for implanting a permanent electrode. Today, the devices are used in more than a hundred hospitals and 500 labs around the world. The company's sophisticated machinery is manufactured in Nazareth but marketed by its offices in the United States, Germany and Israel, as well as by representatives in China, Japan and Latin America.
The Younises attribute their success in large part to their very diverse group of engineers: Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews. "Imad and Reem Younis represent the rich diversity of the country's high-tech and start-up culture," says Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin. "They bring together all the communities in Israel with a shared vision for the future." Says Imad: "When we employ people from different cultures, we can go even farther because each one thinks differently," and this, he says, "can create innovation. We have the same father [Abraham]. We can work together to achieve common goals."
As the medical community discovers how to successfully treat various neurological diseases, Bergman and the Younises are now collaborating on what might be one of the biggest leaps in the history of deep brain stimulation. In 2015, they created a tool that places electrodes in the brain without human intervention. "You push the button and the system goes," says Bergman, who likens it to a driverless car. He dreams of creating devices that will replace humans for most surgery-related functions.
Being in the vanguard of their field is rewarding for Imad and Reem Younis. What's more rewarding, however, is knowing that their company has helped tens of thousands of people. As Reem puts it, "We return people back to life." There is no higher reward than that.
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