Health October 4, 2019
Dubai Science Park – enhancing the ease of doing business

By Clare Whelan - World Healthcare Journal

The local healthcare sector has become one of the most dynamic areas of the Dubai economy and is poised to grow to a value of AED 103bn by 2021. In addition, the UAE’s Ministry of Health announced plans to increase the number of pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities by around 50% by 2020. In line with the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, Dubai Science Park (DSP) has made significant progress towards delivering its mission, which seeks to grow the local science sector by enhancing the ease of doing business within its community.

Marwan Janahi himself has a business background. He undertook his bachelor’s degree in the US, studied briefly at Cranfield in the UK, then came back to Dubai where he first worked for DUBAL and later for a family business. Then life took a surprising turn when he was offered the chance to help establish DSP in 2006 prior to it becoming operational in 2009. He started in the Business Development team, growing through the ranks to his present position.

Establishing Dubai Science Park

Marwan Janahi himself has a business background. He undertook his bachelor’s degree in the US, studied briefly at Cranfield in the UK, then came back to Dubai where he first worked for DUBAL and later for a family business. Then life took a surprising turn when he was offered the chance to help establish DSP in 2006 prior to it becoming operational in 2009. He started in the Business Development team, growing through the ranks to his present position.

Currently, DSP hosts around 350 companies of various sizes and different industries, although healthcare tends to be the biggest sector with a concentration of about 60% of the companies.

Last year, DSP welcomed 47 new business partners to the community from international locations such as the US, Germany and Russia. As DSP continues to grow, it is also looking to attract more international business this year, notably from India.

“People from India tend to understand the culture more and a lot of them live here as well, so in terms of hiring, that is an important aspect in addition to us growing our own talent,” Janahi says. “They also have really good manufacturing capabilities which we are trying to build on. ”

 

 

The Pharmaceutical and Medical Equipment Taskforce

Becoming the Chairing Member of the Pharmaceutical and Medical Equipment Taskforce within the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 was simply an evolution of Janahi’s existing role as Managing Director of DSP.

“Many people call us “industry gatekeepers”. We approach companies and the industry at events like Arab Health but also many people come directly to us. The aim is to help our business partners grow whether they are multinationals or start-ups, and create opportunities between them and other stakeholders. ”

The Government of Dubai recognised the wealth of information and knowledge Janahi now possessed about the industry. It dovetailed neatly with the long term view held by Dubai’s Executive Council, chaired by the Crown Prince of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, that Dubai’s economy should be more resilient and robust, rather than simply a service economy.

The Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 focuses on six different sectors, including pharmaceuticals and medical equipment which have the potential for growth in the region over the next ten years, as well as the ability to engage with the local universities and talent. These sectors are also sustainable and environmentally friendly. As lead, Janahi put together a committee of various stakeholders from Dubai including Dubai Healthcare City and some of the other industry focused zones.

American consultancy company IQVIA helped produce an implementation strategy, looking at sectors, regulation and incentives that were broken down into short term, medium term and long-term categories. Super generics and biosimilars came into the short-term category, plasma production and genetic testing were medium term and the long term included personalised care and gene therapy.

Harnessing the future

Janahi knew it was important to make sure universities were aligned with the strategy. When talking to companies about the advantages of Dubai, he wanted to be able to stress that even if the education sector was not providing the necessary courses now, they were committed to doing so in the future. They worked closely in particular with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, which is geared towards research and collaboration with hospitals.

“The way I look at R&D is that a lot of it can come from the industry, whether it is product enhancement or product modification,” he says. “You just need to bridge the gap between the industry and academia for it to happen. ”

Janahi’s key focus is making the growth sustainable. First on his list is talent, which is important for now and the future. Second is regulation, especially “bearing in mind we are a young country and don’t yet have the guidelines for everything. ” The third is to attract companies which he says is probably the easiest thing to do “with our network and knowhow”. Fourth is investment, with companies that are investment partners specifically looking at pharmaceuticals and manufacturing.

As an example, he cites a pill manufacturing plant at DSP which was launched in December 2018 by a local company that had distributed pharmaceuticals since the ‘70s. The second generation decided they wanted to go into manufacturing which meant working from the ground up. Their machines came from Bosch in Germany because a German export bank gave them financing over ten years as well as support. The pharmaceutical ingredients came from Italy, some of their staffing was local and some from India, which provided “a good, international mix”.

DSP also introduced them to investors from Morocco, resulting in an oral dosage plant which he describes as “a good success story”. They are now keen to get into more sophisticated manufacturing such as injectables and inhalers.


The advantage of Dubai

DSP is rigorous in trying to understand a business before opening discussions and explaining the advantages, not least of which is Dubai’s connectivity to the whole region. Starting a business can be done very quickly and efficiently including trade licences and space. Janahi says this applies to “companies that are one-man shows, or large companies”.

Industry-focused zones have evolved into very mature organisations; for example on a monthly basis DSP holds industry networking events where a different theme is chosen each time, such as preventative care, rare diseases and the private-public partnership strategy of the Dubai government. The aim of these events is to create networking opportunities for companies in the healthcare sphere. He describes it as “a collaborative environment where people can nurture their ideas for the future economy”.

As a young country, the regulatory environment is not as well developed as elsewhere but Janahi recognises that appropriate regulation is needed, although it is an ongoing question whether the focus should be on regulations for existing businesses or created to attract companies.

Currently, they examine situations in Europe, the UK, the US and then, following feedback and consultations, decide whether a similar system would work in Dubai. However, he is clear that “you need to have your own regulations, your own standards” for local circumstances.

For Janahi, combining his two roles brings distinct advantages for everyone, including himself. “It has been very rewarding,” he says of the dynamic life where he gets to meet new companies, interact with government and different stakeholders so “it never feels like I am doing the same thing”.

You don’t get the impression that Janahi’s energy and drive are likely to evaporate any time soon.


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