At the recent BIO confab in Philly I was honored to moderate the panel on “Public Sector Biotech Initiatives in Middle East and North Africa.” I was joined with public officials and regional experts (Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, Executive Director of Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, DuBiotech, Samir Khalil, Executive Director of Middle East & Africa, PhRMA, Tarek Salman, Assistant Minister of Health and Population for Pharmaceutical Affairs in Egypt, David Torstensson, Senior Consultant, Pugatch Consilium, and Jeffrey Kemprecos, Executive Director, Emerging Markets Public Policy, Merck).
A key take-away was that one of the key drivers of biotech investment in the region (and, indeed, any region) is sound regulatory policy. This was most directly addressed by Vice Minister Salman who discussed how the Egyptian regulatory authority had upgraded both its processes and procedures to reward innovation with a review pathway that is more predictable and timely.
As the panel’s moderator, I had the opportunity to present opening remarks. Here’s what I had to say:
When it comes to biotech incentives in the MENA region, there are many languages, priorities, pressures, and impediments (social, political, cultural) to consider.
In April 2015 I spent three fascinating days in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt at the Second Arab Conference on Food & Drugs.
Delegates from the Levant to Morocco had a lot to say and share. The fundamental take-away was that the Arab world is serious about coordinating their efforts in healthcare in general and in regulatory affairs specifically. “Convergence” and “harmonization” were the two key words of the event.
(The Middle East/North Africa Region – MENA – consists of 22 nations – but just 2% of global pharmaceutical sales.)
Biotech initiatives are a global opportunity, but they take many local forms --because public health is a global fraternity with national priority, local impact and global implications.
Biotech Initiatives take many forms:
- Investment programs
- Clinical trial incentives
- Reinvention of medicine and device regulation
- A high regard for Intellectual Property Rights
- An embrace of the concept of both price and value
- Transparency of laws and regulations
- And the rule of law
Most importantly, national biotech initiatives rest on the foundation of the importance and urgency of healthcare innovation.
But Biotech Initiatives mustn’t falter under the false banner of Biotech Imperialism. Initiatives must benefit all parties, transnational, national – and local.
That means “doing the right thing.” It’s about “Nazaha” – Integrity.