In an interview with in-PharmaTechnologist Dr Faiz Kermani, author of “A quick guide to healthcare and biotechnology in the Middle East”, explained how the UAE, already one of the top pharma locations in the region, is looking to grow.
The vast oil wealth in the UAE is being used to attract companies, with the DuBiotech development, the world’s first free-zone dedicated to life sciences, spearheading this effort.
Benefits of establishing a presence at DuBiotech include guaranteed 30-50 years exemption from personal, income and corporate taxes, 100 per cent foreign ownership and long term land leases.
Dubai Healthcare City has also been established to house pharma and biotech companies. Kermani added that AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Amgen and Genzyme are among the companies to have regional headquarters in the UAE.
These companies are permitted to conduct stem cell research in line with international regulations. In addition the UAE is committed to intellectual property protection under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPS Council Agreement.
The drive to attract pharma and biotech is part of the UAE’s efforts to become a knowledge based economy by 2010.
Domestic businesses expand
Domestic pharma manufacturing in the UAE is described as strong by Kermani, with Julphar and Gulf Inject Company dominating the sector.
Julphar is in the middle of a $1.23bn (€887m) investment plan that is designed to bolster its domestic and international manufacturing capacity. The company is adding seven new overseas operations and seven production facilities in the UAE.
A focus of this expansion is to increase Julphar’s insulin production capacity, which the company hopes will be sufficient to produce one-third of the 102m vials needed to treat diabetes in the region.
Diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular ailments and cancer, are on the rise in the UAE and Julphar is shifting its therapeutic focus to account for this.
In addition the company is increasing investment in R&D to move beyond its current focus on generics manufacturing.
The US, Middle East and FOBs
Several countries in the Middle East, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are awaiting the establishment of a regulatory pathway for follow-on biologics (FOB) in the US.
Kermani explained that some countries in the region follow international regulations “to a degree” and consequently the passing of a FOB bill in the US will have far reaching consequences.
However, other countries, including Iran, have already established regulatory processes for the approval of FOBs.