DuBiotech: The Creation of a Knowledge-based Economy




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Video title: DuBiotech: The Creation of a Knowledge-based Economy
Released on: October 07, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this latest interview, Fintan Walton talks with Dr Ihsan Almarzouqi at BIO San Diego. They discuss the innovative development currently under construction in Dubai - the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech).

Dr Almarzouqi explains that the Park was set up as part of the Dubai government’s vision to diversify their economy. So far, they have attracted 45 major companies including big pharmaceuticals, such as Amgen and Pfizer, and their goal is to attract companies from every aspect of the industry including legal, logistical and biotech support services. Ihsan Almarzouqi describes the unique opportunities that Dubai offers because of its location and the support available to companies interested in investing in the future of this venture.
Origins and aims of DuBiotech
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures Business Review here in San Diego, California. On this show I have Dr Ihsan Almarzouqi, who is the Director of Business Development at DuBiotech. Welcome to the show.
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Ihsan, the DuBiotech is a now relatively good name around the world, people are learning about DuBiotech, could you tell us a little bit about the origins of DuBiotech and the aims of that company?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Sure. Well the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park short for DuBiotech was launched about three-years ago as by the ruler of Dubai as part of a 2010 and now 2015 strategy of the city of Dubai, The Emirate of Dubai to diversify from it's, from your that's your typical oil based economy to a knowledge based economy. So three components where identified healthcare, education and biotechnology and the first two are fairly advanced in their implementation in Dubai and the third biotechnology falls under DuBiotech to let's say drive the biotech industry, an industry that wasn't really existent as a five-years ago.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
But now we see very flourishing in the region.
Infrastructure facilities at Dubai and DuBiotech's role as facilitator
Fintan Walton:
Right. So when somebody arrives at DuBiotech and Dubai what do they see, there is a when I went to see your facilities there was a lot of plans and building and attracting companies in, could you tell us a little bit about why you've got to in that plan?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Sure, well the park is around 22 million square feet, we develop different products for companies. We have from the real estate aspect of it, we have three products a four building laboratory complex, the headquarter complex and something we call the pre built units. The lab obviously caters for any lab activities, the headquarter located for commercial activities and offices and the pre built terminal of logistical facilities. Now we also offer the option for companies to build their own facilities through land leases. All the regulatory frame work is completed so any company operating in DuBiotech or at DuBiotech is falls under the regulatory frame work of DuBiotech, which is compliant with most of the regulations we see at the FDA or EMEA. So that's the kind of lets say facilities we offer, we obviously register the company, license the company, provide the company's employees with all the residency permits, all the approvals required from the Ministry for Health in terms of drug registration, clinical trial approval on behalf of the Ministry of Health.
Fintan Walton:
So it's a complete package here as a facilitator
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
To make it happen for the company who want to invest?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Absolutely, absolutely yes.
Major pharma and biotech companies investing in DuBiotech
Fintan Walton:
> And what sort of companies are you investing are investing now in DuBiotech?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Okay, well as of we are three-years old so we have about 45 companies so for at DuBiotech. Most of the major pharma and biotech companies are with us the likes of Pfizer, Amgen, Genzyme, Merck-Serono, Eppendorf. And we have a few very large ones already close to setting up at DuBiotech. CRO's, we have our first CRO in the Middle East set up with us it is a German CRO. We have also companies they do life science consultancy on behalf of the pharma industry, a lot of the Indian biotech's have an interest in DuBiotech, Biocon [PharmaDeals ID = 27992] and Avesthagen [PharmaDeals ID = 31911] with us. So we have a broad range of companies, some local but mostly multinational companies.
What types of operations of companies are being set up?
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So when there they are setting up or what type of operations they are setting up there?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Okay. It depends on the company. We see the American biotech initially setting up their regional headquarters for sales and marketing office there and then expanding mostly likely into logistical facilities since Dubai is such a great logistical hub for the export of these medicines to the greater region. Some companies, the Indian biotech companies we find tend to go towards the manufacturing facility. So we see that a lot from those guys. The Europeans are little bit mix of both they are more into clinical trials, they are quite let's say in need of new sites, so that, that's every attractive to them.
Fintan Walton:
So the main ones are sales and marketing, manufacturing, clinical trials which you expect for a region like Dubai to develop initially?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes. And obviously their aim is once they feel more comfortable at DuBiotech, once they see Dubai and the region and how bigger the market it is, we wish for them to actually diversify into R&D in the future but we know that it can't be done initially to have research and development of these companies move to Dubai is not very realistic in the short-term but long-term it's definitely part of our strategy.
Dubai the preferred headquarter for middle east region market
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Now those companies who are setting up those activities particularly sales and marketing are looking at the whole of the Middle East area as a region for headquartering then in Dubai for that region?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes, absolutely. I mean Dubai usually caters for the subcontinent for the greater Middle East North Africa, East Africa, South Africa and Eastern Europe Southern Eastern Europe. So in most cases companies that move to Dubai they don't caters for the United Arab Emirates only it's a small population. There is a much larger population of 1.5 billion people in our vicinity within four hours flying time, so that's where the real market for these companies are. And it's very, it's very easy for them to set up at in Dubai, at DuBiotech as opposed to some of the neighboring countries.
Venture capitals, opportunities of investment and co-development in region specific therapies and personalised medicines
Fintan Walton:
Right. So clearly some of these very large corporations like Pfizer and so forth are coming into the region, you described the ambition to bring in biotechnology companies more earlier stage biotechnology companies, are there investment vehicles available for those companies when they get there or are there opportunities for investment?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes of course. We already have a number of venture capitals set up at the park to invest in companies that want to bring some type of drug discovery activities in the region, it doesn't have to be in Dubai or in the United Arab Emirates but in the region. We ourselves are setting up a very large fund for foreign biotechnology in the Middle East, strategy of that fund would to be attract lets say more late stage development of products to be either in at DuBiotech the Middle East and to choose the type of, lets say products that are relevant to the regions or products in development that target diabetes, genetic diseases like Thalassemia those are the ones in our radar list.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So those are the therapies that are probably not as popular but are very specific to the region?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes, yes I mean especially in genetic diseases we have lot of genetic diseases that lot of markets don't cater for. And we also are looking into co-develop lets say products with CRO's through clinical trials, we act as investors in that case. And lot of the business partners are already with us at DuBiotech we joint venture with them for certain products. And we also finally look at products that are already out in the market or under development, but really cater for the Western markets and you know they don't really work lot of the diabetestherapeutics now really don't work for the Middle East and populations, so we are looking at that to develop something with big pharma with the biotech companies to develop a therapeutic specifically catered for the genetic make up of the population.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah. So there is still area of unmet clinical need
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
That's specific to the region?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes personalized medicine that's what we are really into now.
Fintan Walton:
So that is coincides with the other developments that are happening within the pharmaceutical industry?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Sure.
Fintan Walton:
So there is an opportunity here for those companies that are now developing personalized medicines�
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes, absolutely.
Fintan Walton:
To move into the particular region?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes.
Talented manpower resource in Dubai
Fintan Walton:
So clearly one of the things that one sees when one arrives in Dubai is the huge amount of development that's going on and so forth. So one of the questions is with obviously this the indigenous population, but also there is lot of migrant population moving in as well so in terms of resourcing getting the right personal to support these businesses when they come into Dubai, what sort of support is available?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Okay. Well manpower is not an issue. A lot of people ask us well if we come with a large manufacturing plant where do we get the personal, you have to remember Dubai's population or the United Arab Emirates populations around 85 to 90% expatriate population so there is a very small local population there. However said having said that talent is available from across the Middle East. We have a lot of graduates from the Middle East who wish to come to Dubai as there are lot of people from the Indian subcontinent who are very skilled in the biotech industry that can move to Dubai. And lot of people of Middle Eastern origin working in labs in the US and then Europe would like to come to Dubai. We never founded a problem to attract good talent to Dubai. And we have no restrictions in terms of the nationality that live in Dubai, we offer residency permits to all nationalities with no problems.
local education and presence of International universities in Dubai
Fintan Walton:
Sure. And I one thing that I know is also is the number of universities and colleges that have set ups their own presence in Dubai presumably that also assists in the education, the local education?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes, yes I mean we have let's say two types of graduates, graduates from the local universities that are very good especially in life sciences and pharmaceutical there are lot of graduates from the United Arab Emirates. And also the international universities that have set up a campus in Dubai, we see a lot of graduates coming there and there is more and more good universities there, most of the major lot of the major American universities, tier 1 universities have a presence in the Gulf now. And so we don't think that manpower is an issue. And in addition to this we are setting up our own life science program, we aim to have a master's program and a R&D program with the university, a tier 1 North American University or a British University that we are talking to. And at the same time we have a continuing education institute in order to let's say offer courses, technical courses to employees of the park and we've set this up already, it was operational as of January offers 500 technical courses in affiliation with the US Institutes.
Future vision of DuBiotech and attractions at Dubai
Fintan Walton:
So looking into the future and how this is all going to develop, what's the vision then for Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park? What do you see in the next five-years?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Well if you think of how we've done so far three-years down the line 40 companies, 45 companies with no facilities ready, I don't think that's bad.
Fintan Walton:
Amazing.
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
I think once our facilities are ready we will expect to have that 10 times or more. And we expect to have over a 1000 companies with us once we are fully operational with all our facilities ready by 2012. We see the activities diversifying from or lets say changing from your typical manufacturing, generic manufacturing in Dubai, similarly now we see a lot of Indians want to be active in having a presence in Dubai. We also see a lot of change in the you know your typical logistics facility for the pharma towards R&D that's something we anticipate to have. So you know we have very large ambitions and we think Dubai is a selling point for any company and we didn't have to market until now we don't market, we just tell them what DuBiotech is about and Dubai is about and they usually come.
Fintan Walton:
So the attraction is what, the attraction is, is it because if there is a tax break there?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes. Well there is a number of attractions, Dubai is a popular place for all nationalities. We have European's, American's, Indian's, Arab's and people from the far East African's all living. We have over 200 nationalities in Dubai and you just mentioned the tax issue, with no corporate tax, we have no income tax it's a 100% reputation of profits. So companies I mean I can give you an example of a CRO for example if it set up a contract in Dubai it's their operations are tax free for it saves a lot more money, it's more reasonable, manpower is not an issue everything is streamed line, so if a company that wants to set up operations in DuBiotech everything is done by us including regulatory aspects with the governments, so they don't really have to chase, waste of time there is no problems in employing people of certain nationalities. It's really we leave them to do the business that they are here to do.
Fintan Walton:
So there, it's your key role here is to facilitate make it easy for the company to get in?
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Yes. And at the same time we invest in companies that we think are very promising for the region, we have a strategic let's say focus to invest in products that would eventually help the United Arab Emirates biotech industry, so that's what we also do to.
Fintan Walton:
It's very interesting to hear about DuBiotech. And we hope to watch this over the next few years.
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
And thank you very much Ihsan Almarzouqi for coming on the show. Thank you very much indeed.
Ihsan Almarzouqi:
Thank you, pleasure. Thank you.
Ihsan Almarzouqi
Director of Business Development
Dr Ihsan Almarzouqi is the Director of Business Development for the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech). In this position he is responsible for all investment activities in biotechnology and life sciences on behalf of DuBiotech, TECOM Investments and Dubai Holding, its parent companies. Before taking up his present role he was a project manager for DuBiotech, looking after all the infrastructure and construction related investments for the park. Dr Almarzouqi is on the board of several committees of life science organizations in the UAE, and is leading 14 special-status scientific projects that are considered crucial to the development of the biotechnology industry in the UAE. IhsanAlmarzouqi obtained his PhD and Masters in Biochemical Engineering from University College London. He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sheffield and is currently working towards an Executive MBA from London Business School.
DuBiotech
Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech) is the Middle East's first Science and Business Park dedicated to the international life science industry. It was officially launched in February 2005 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai as part of Dubai's 2010 vision to establish a knowledge-based economy. DuBiotech, upon completion, will cover 30 million square feet of built-up area. It is located in a prime area of Dubai and the Park is divided into zones that are dedicated to various initiatives and companies of all sizes from across the life science industry with an overall focus on research and development. To date, DuBiotech has attracted several key players in the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical industries, as well as entrepreneurs, drug manufacturers, and industry specific business support services. It is also actively building affiliations and alliances with universities, specialist hospitals, world regulatory bodies and other research parks to link the DuBiotech community with the global biotechnology industry.