The Middle East’s industry is rapidly growing, with several key players emerging in the region. Notably, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are at the forefront of this expansion. Our focus today zeros in on the UAE, particularly Dubai and its biotech companies, renowned for being one of the most strategic and influential locations in the Middle East.
In the UAE, Dubai stands out as the primary hub for life science companies. In fact, over 350 of these firms have chosen Dubai as their base, showcasing the city’s significant role in the life sciences sector. Dubai promotes the sector with attractive initiatives such as the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech). This hub is one of the free zones created by the UAE and provides companies with tax advantages and services. It stands on two pillars: firstly, the Foundation for Research and Innovation which relies on government-founded R&D, and secondly, high-end infrastructure and education resources in the biotech field.
This results in a stimulating ecosystem fostering biotech companies’ implementation. Apart from industry giants that have set shop in Dubai, such as Medtronic, Pfizer, or Virax Biolabs, here are five Dubai-based companies you should know about in the biotech and biopharma fields.
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CellSave was founded in 2005 and now operates as one of the top companies in stem cell treatment research. The company consists of a stem cell banking system.
The company announced in June 2023 their collaboration with the Bioscience Institute to launch a pioneering regenerative medicine service in the UAE. This innovative service focuses on utilizing umbilical cord tissue and placenta stem cells to revolutionize healthcare solutions. Together, they’ve inaugurated a state-of-the-art Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility to manufacture stem cells for clinical trials, ensuring the highest quality and safety standards are met.
The collaboration’s primary goal is to address age-related conditions, injuries, and challenging diseases by harnessing the potential of umbilical cord tissue and placental stem cells. Their ongoing partnership is one to look out for in the upcoming years.
Established in 1998, biotech company GlobalPharma was acquired for 100% ownership by Dubai Investment PJSC in 2019. GlobalPharma, with cGMP-certified manufacturing facilities approved by health authorities across the Middle East, Levant, Africa, and CIS regions, focuses on producing and distributing generic pharmaceuticals covering various lifestyle disease segments. These encompass treatments for cardiovascular issues, ulcers, diabetes, arthritis, pain relief, respiratory ailments, allergies, infections, and multivitamin supplements.
The company aims to expand its therapeutic areas and launch new products to address unmet patient needs. Their flagship brands like Gloclav, Glomox, Emifenac DT, Emidol, and Glovit are well established in the Middle East and North African markets.
Moreover, GlobalPharma emphasizes its commitment to supporting healthcare professionals in the UAE and the region by prioritizing Continuous Medical Education (CME). This long-term focus on education aims to strengthen the knowledge and skills of medical practitioners, contributing to improved healthcare standards in the area.
Modern Pharmaceutical LLC
Modern Pharmaceutical Company (MPC) began in 1969 as a Dubai retail pharmacy and has evolved into a key healthcare distributor in the MENA region. MPC covers 25% of the UAE’s healthcare needs, offering a wide range of services like logistics, marketing, and regulatory affairs.
As part of the Albatha Group, MPC offers an extensive range of healthcare solutions, serving a wide spectrum from hospitals, medical centers, and retailers to wholesalers and over 2,500 pharmacies directly.
During the pandemic, MPC played a vital role by securing essential resources like Veklury (remdesivir) through its partnership with Gilead Sciences, significantly reducing hospitalization needs for high-risk COVID-19 patients.
MPC’s foundational vision to become the leading healthcare distributor has led to substantial investments in cutting-edge infrastructure, digitalization, logistics, and skilled personnel, solidifying its position as a dominant player in the region.
MPC collaborated with brands like AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Understanding MPC’s expansive reach is crucial due to its significant role in shaping the regional healthcare industry.
MPC envisions a healthcare system focusing on early consumer engagement, data integration, and innovative business models, aiming to reduce costs and enhance accessibility, aligning with the UAE’s aspiration to become a global medical destination.
Company NewBridge Pharmaceuticals stands at the forefront of innovation and transformation in Dubai’s biotech landscape. Over its 13-year journey, this MENA-focused specialty biopharma distributor has emerged as a pioneer, redefining access to life-changing therapies across the Middle East and North Africa region.
Founded in 2010, NewBridge represents a unique convergence of expertise and vision. At its core, NewBridge specializes in licensing and distributing innovative specialty biopharmaceuticals, ensuring these groundbreaking treatments reach patients in the MENA region. With a strategic focus on key therapeutic areas like immunology, oncology, neuroscience, metabolic, and rare diseases, the company has pioneered a distinct model, partnering with global biotech companies to build competitive, specialized brands across the region.
NewBridge remains committed to expanding its offerings, exploring new technologies like genomics, and potentially extending its footprint into South Africa and Sub-Saharan African countries.
As the global pharmaceutical landscape undergoes transformative shifts, NewBridge Pharmaceuticals continues to shine as a leading force in the MENA region and beyond.
Shalina Healthcare is a Dubai biotech company with a strong foothold in Africa. With a profound commitment to enhancing healthcare access, affordability, and quality across the continent, Shalina has obtained recognition among top pharmaceutical companies operating in Africa. This acknowledgment, alongside industry giants like Sanofi and GSK, is a testament to their dedication to improving public health throughout Africa.
Their impact extends across a diverse portfolio encompassing antimalarials, nutraceuticals, cardiovascular drugs, and pain relief medications, significantly influencing public health outcomes across the continent. A distinctive emphasis on local manufacturing, extensive research, advanced diagnostics, and community engagement not only drives economic growth but also builds sustainable healthcare systems, especially in challenging areas.
Shalina Healthcare’s primary goal is not just providing pharmaceutical solutions; it’s also about improving overall healthcare access. Their recent expansion into Mali signifies their commitment to broadening healthcare access and affordability. This move not only brings quality healthcare solutions but also aims to make them more accessible in a region that greatly benefits from such initiatives.
Dubai biotech companies: a maturing ecosystem
It seems there are no biotech companies capable of developing innovative therapies within their portfolio in Dubai for now. The biotech industry in Dubai is showing promise but is still in its developing stages.
One of the main challenges is building a viable biotech industry as part of a wider strategy to transition to a knowledge-based economy. This transition involves significant lab and office infrastructure investments and efforts to attract biotech talent from abroad. Dubai’s DuBiotech, for instance, has created a free-trade zone for biotech that includes tax incentives, long-term government backing, and new facilities to make the region more attractive to biotech companies and professionals.
However, there are challenges specific to the region that affect the growth of the biotech sector. These include the need for legal and regulatory support to build true knowledge economies, a historical lack of engagement with research, and the challenge of developing a thriving research culture that can compete globally for skills and resources. Additionally, while attracting biotech talent is one aspect, retaining them is another challenge.
While Dubai is making efforts to develop its biotech sector, it faces several hurdles in creating a conclusive research culture. These efforts, though promising, suggest that the biotech industry in the area is still maturing.