When Tamir Huberman completed his degree in electrical engineering from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1996, most of his fellow students were seeking work for telecom startups or dot-com firms, both exploding growth areas in Israel. Huberman instead chose to work for Medis Technologies, a small biotech company developing a lab-on-a-chip product. "Most of my friends said I was crazy, that I was missing the new economy," says Huberman, now a vice president of research at Medis. "Now most of them are out of work."

Biotechnology is indeed a growth industry in Israel. Thanks to seven world-class universities, a growing venture capital community, and a large pool of scientists and technicians--many of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union--the country is undergoing a mini-boom in biotech. In 2001 160 Israeli companies employing more than 4,000 people produced more than $800 million (US) in revenue, according to the Ministry of...

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