In the Middle East, countries are waking up to the potential of the biotechnology industry. Many applications have demonstrated that biotechnology can help solve some of the more persistent development problems in the Middle East. Both industry and governments in the region are keen to ensure that they do not miss the enormous opportunities that biotechnology presents. Across the region, governments are actively encouraging the sector by offering incentives and developing infrastructure.
One of the most significant initiatives launched to advance the biotechnology industry in the Middle East is the UAE’s Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech). Announced in February 2005, DuBiotech is a new tax-free zone dedicated to the development of the life sciences sector. It is a science and business park dedicated to the biotechnology industry, set within a ‘free zone’. Areas of activity within DuBiotech include drug discovery, stem cell research, infectious diseases and forensic research. DuBiotech aims to set up a biotechnology industry cluster with cutting-edge infrastructure, facilities and services for incubators, R&D labs, biotech-related educational institutions, suppliers, biotech-related manufacturing companies and organizations from other sectors in the industry. DuBiotech is supported by an independent steering committee, who provide guidance regarding scientific, business and ethical matters. In cooperation with global research leader, RTI International, DuBiotech is developing comprehensive regulations that address all aspects of biotech activities.
DuBiotech is intended to be the hub and the centre of excellence in the region bridging research, education and industry because it is the first and only of its kind in biotechnology in the Middle East. To achieve its goals, DuBiotech has studied the deficiencies in the region and is working to create the environment and infrastructure for accelerated development.
DuBiotech has already attracted key players in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, as well as entrepreneurs, drug manufacturers, and industry specific business support services. DuBiotech has set up the necessary infrastructure for life science companies to conduct activities within the park including hazardous waste management, custom support services for logistics and distribution activities, and centralised facilities for research and development activities.
DuBiotech aims to assist research in diseases particularly endemic in this region such as diabetes, which affect 20% of the general population. Research in such areas is hoped Dr. Marco Baccanti Executive Director Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech) Guest Article 9 to lead to medical benefits relevant to the Middle Eastern population. Other areas that are important to the Middle Eastern community are desalination techniques in order to increase access to potable water resources. This will be another priority area for research at DuBiotech. In addition, DuBiotech is keen to support drug discovery and research in genetic diseases prevalent in the region such as thalassemia. Incubation facilities and venture capital support are being developed for start-ups involved in these fields. More than 55 companies have signed with DuBiotech to date. All the firms that have moved to DuBiotech park have a strong R&D base. DuBiotech will be an ideal platform for R&D firms and pharma companies as it provides the ideal environment for the commercialisation of research activity and an opportunity for local researchers to understand and learn about global research through the international players present at the park. Improving local talent DuBiotech hopes to facilitate regional scientific talent by marrying international expertise to regional research. The creation of DuBiotech means greater opportunities for Dubai and the region as a whole. The Park has many collaborations with universities to create a wide range of educational possibilities for the youth of today. This in turn will create a new generation of scientists and entrepreneurs who will look at science as a career rather than the energy sector or the government. There is a wide gap between academic institutions and industry. DuBiotech aims to fill this gap through university collaborations e.g. with UAE University and Manipal University with research labs at DuBiotech. Patents at DuBiotech Discoveries and Inventions can be patented through the Industrial Property Directorate (the UAE equivalent of the Patent Office), at the Ministry of Finance and Industry. The applications are then examined. Following its approval, a UAE patent is granted. Innovators also have the option of applying through the GCC patent office in Saudi Arabia, which provides GCC-wide protection. In the past, manufacturing in the region’s life sciences sector has been hindered by high infrastructure and technology costs and inadequate return on investments. DuBiotech’s shared infrastructure and support services significantly reduce the total cost of operations for manufacturers. All of this makes it an opportune moment for international companies from across the life sciences value chain to establish a foothold in this region.