DuBiotech aims to be a world-class research hub

Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park – or DuBiotech for short – is likely to be fully operational by the end of this year. "More than 55 companies have signed with DuBiotech to set up their activities at the park," Marwan Abdul Aziz, Director, DuBiotech , told Emirates Business.

DuBiotech, part of Tecom Investments, is set to become a leading business technology park dedicated to the global life science industry. It will offer three types of premises – labs, offices and warehousing facilities. The Nucleotide Lab Complex will focus on research and development in medicine, genetics, plant biotechnology and agricultural biotech. The BIO Headquarter Towers has been earmarked for an industry cluster containing pharma companies' commercial operations, and warehousing will be contained in a separate facility. In this interview with Emirates Business, Aziz explains what the development has to offer.

How many companies have booked space at DuBiotech and how many have moved in?

Lab space is ready and four companies have already moved to the park. The total number of companies that are in tie-up with us has reached more than 55. By the end of this year DuBiotech will have 225,000 sqft of research space in the labs and 450,000 sqft of office space in the office area. Initially we have provided temporary office space at different locations, including Academic City, until DuBiotech is complete.

How do the companies' activities tie in with DuBiotech?

A large number of players are involved in commercial activities and a limited number in R&D. Generally, as a first step, global companies will come here to market their products and later they will embark on research activity after studying the region's requirements. Pfizer, among other major players, is here to promote its product line and support its distribution and marketing. On the other hand, a large number of R&D firms is keen on DuBiotech. All the firms that have moved to the park have a strong R&D base.

How does DuBiotech bridge the gap between academia and industry?

There is a wide gap between academic institutions and industry. We collaborate with academic institutions and industrial organisations. We have linked up with UAE University and Manipal University. We invite universities to set up research labs at DuBiotech to bridge the gap. DuBiotech will be an ideal platform for R&D firms and pharma companies as it provides the ideal environment for the commercialisation of research activity and an opportunity for local researchers to understand and learn about global research through the international players present at the park. We are also working with the Ministry of Health, Dubai Health Authority and other regulatory authorities to make the life sciences industry figure among the top global performers.

The commercialisation of research is still a major problem for the pharma industry. How will DuBiotech help solve this difficulty?

DuBiotech gives top priority to this area. We help research firms at DuBiotech develop commercial applications as per industry requirements. What the global pharma industry requires will be addressed at research labs and what research develops will be commercialised in a strategic way, in accordance with international standards. Key factors such as research and the commercialisation process will be given top priority at the park. We aim to be a life sciences hub in the Middle East.

What is the park's unique selling point in terms of attracting companies?

DuBiotech is a free zone that offers lab space, office space and warehousing facilities. Since Dubai is ideally located between West and East, our park offers a geographical advantage to global players and excellent global reach for regional companies. Costs are very competitive considering the high quality facilities. We are investing in comprehensive infrastructure, including a sewage treatment plant and electricity substations. We are investing around $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) to make DuBiotech a world-class industrial facility. R&D and pharma companies will benefit from advanced technical and community infrastructure that will accelerate the growth of the life sciences industry.

How many companies are expected to become part of DuBiotech ?

Ten companies have been licensed by DuBiotech so far this year and we are expecting the number of new companies coming to the park to touch the 70-mark by the end of 2009. Project works are on schedule and will be ready very soon.

Has Maquet Middle East and other companies that have taken space at started operations yet?

Yes, Maquet has become operational this year. The park is able to attract global pharma companies like Maquet, a $3bn German pharma group and global leader in medical systems focusing on operating rooms and intensive care units. The latest company to join us is Aspen Healthcare, which is part of South Africa's largest pharma company Aspen Pharmacare Holdings. This Johannesburg-based company is planning to market its product line from the region. Its presence at DuBiotech will enrich the biotechnology sector in the region and provide Aspen with a central local advantage for improved distribution channels.

Do you see any impact on pharma firms from the global economic crisis?

So far we have not seen any impact on the pharma companies that are in discussions with us or already associated with us. We are getting a good response from the global pharma industry. We focus on both the agricultural biotechnology and industrial biotechnology areas as well as clinical research companies, medical devices and scientific equipment companies.

Do you have any expansion or diversification plans?

We are focusing on DuBiotech only. We aim to make this a world-class biotech hub with an equal emphasis on the R&D and commercial sides of the pharma industry. We may expand in the future, but there are no such plans as of now.

PROFILE: Marwan Abdul Aziz, Director, DuBiotech

Abdul Aziz has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas, US. He previously worked as DuBiotech's Director of Sales, where he was responsible for developing and implementing a marketing plan. As a core member of the sales team he attracted and retained new clients for the organisation and steered a successful marketing campaign for the life sciences park. His efforts yielded more than 20 new international business partners in 2007, including a major deal with Pfizer. His hobbies include photography, reading and travel.


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