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UAE and Saudi Arabia serve as gateways for biopharma to international markets


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Image: Dubai Skyline / Courtesy of iStock magnifier

Biopharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi, AbbVie and Virax Biolabs are looking for major business opportunities in the Middle East, especially in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. These countries have emerged as attractive markets for new therapeutics due to growing population and rising incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The Middle East is emerging as a key healthcare market with increasing demand for innovative healthcare solutions, especially after the region grapples with the challenges posed by the pandemic, said Chief Operating Officer Cameron Shaw express Verax Biological Laboratorythe company recently reached an agreement to establish a regional headquarters in Dubai Science Park, UAE.

“The UAE has been hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic, just like everyone in the world has been affected,” Shaw told reporters. biological space. This is partly due to the high prevalence of diabetes and obesity in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, he noted, adding that these diseases need to be addressed even in the absence of a global virus threat.

Strategic partnerships with local entities allow biopharma companies to take advantage of incentives offered by governments eager to establish innovation hubs to enhance R&D or sell existing products.

For example, the United Arab Emirates has several designated free economic zone Provides a favorable business environment for biotech companies willing to do business overseas. According to reports, these areas, such as the Dubai Biotechnology Research Park and the Abu Dhabi Global Market, offer various incentives, including 100% foreign ownership, tax exemptions and simplified administrative processes. Analyst at PwC.

In addition, the UAE has a well-established healthcare system and high healthcare spending, providing a strong market for life sciences, said Virax CEO James Foster. The country’s geographical location is also a strategic advantage, allowing easy access to other international markets, he added.

“This is a huge growth opportunity,” Foster told biological space. “We see potential investment opportunities; they’re opening up the capital markets, they’re opening up the funding markets there. There’s all sorts of interest from all kinds of companies like us to go there and get funding, but for all different reasons, It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get money in Western countries.”

Randolph Gordon, CEO of World Health Advisors and retired industry analyst, said that in addition to business incentives biological space The Middle East also offers unique clinical trial registration opportunities.

“These countries may also provide populations in which new interventions can be developed,” he said. “The population of a given country may have different types of diseases or genetics, and then that also provides a resource base . . . to develop interventions for that condition or that genetic condition.”

Below are some recent collaborations.


The French pharmaceutical company announced earlier this month that Sanofi will partner Partnering with Saudi Arabian drugmakers Arabio and Lifera, both of which are wholly owned by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, to boost vaccine production in the country. The partners seek to explore potential preventive measures, including using Lifera as a contract manufacturer for Sanofi and establishing a new manufacturing facility.

Sanofi will initially share its biotech knowledge to produce seven vaccines, all of which are included in Saudi Arabia’s mandatory immunization program. Arabio plans to use its local and regional distribution network to supply the Saudi market with vaccines and biopharmaceutical products. The vaccine partnership underscores Lifera’s broader aim to strengthen the nation’s healthcare system and expand Riyadh’s biopharmaceutical industry as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The plan aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, expand its economic base and strengthen various public services such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, entertainment and tourism.


In June, AbbVie signed another partnership with the UAE.UAE government officials in announcement said the deal is in line with the UAE’s vision to become a global leader in healthcare innovation.

Now, AbbVie has entered into a strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health and local healthcare company M42 to further advance personalized medicine and genomics. The group uses precision medicine to analyze an individual’s genetic makeup to better understand disease and optimize treatment strategies.

Verax Biological Laboratory

In May, Virax signed an agreement to establish a regional headquarters in the UAE. Foster said that by entering the region, he hopes to increase distribution of Virax’s in vitro diagnostic products and the company’s proprietary T-cell test. Foster said he expects Virax’s T-cell test to be particularly effective in diagnosing and treating potential future epidemics.

Lisa Munger is biological space. You can reach her by: lisa.munger@biospace.com.follow her LinkedIn.


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