It’s clear the UAE’s pharma market is strategically important for investors. The local sector has grown above the global average at 7.5 per cent since 2016 and is projected to be worth USD 4.54 billion. Even before the pandemic, establishing a manufacturing base has been imperative to fortify supplies, reduce costs and avoid shortages of medicines and treatments.
According to the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), there are more than 6,100 generic medicines and products available in the UAE. Steps have already been taken to spearhead a transformation in pharmaceutical manufacturing, underpinned by a strategic collaboration between the private sector and public institutions.
This characterization of the market crystallizes the opportunities for institutional investment to strengthen the UAE’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities, reducing medical costs in the long run.
Catalyzing the UAE’s growth as a strong pharma hub
As we aim to create value, we have a commitment to creating a strong platform to strengthen the UAE’s position as a regional pharma and manufacturing hub. This is underpinned by a series of initiatives and strategic acquisitions we have conducted.
ADQ’s strategic acquisition of Pharmax Pharmaceuticals, a specialist manufacturer of branded generic medication at its UAE and EU accredited facility, was the first step to increase affordability. Building on this, our investment in Biocon Biologics, India’s largest biopharmaceutical company, aims to advance the production of biosimilar medications, medicines made from living organisms, in the UAE that are almost identical to their reference product.
Acquisitions such as Amoun one of Egypt's leading pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, are expected to promote manufacturing, commercialization, and distribution in neighboring markets, through the companies’ extensive networks. Additionally, ADQ plans to expand its footprint pharma manufacturing in the UAE through green fields projects via international partnerships, further enhancing the nation’s capabilities in different areas of manufacturing.
Similarly in the UAE, clinical trials are underway for new medications and vaccines. Department of Health is a case in point, cooperating with researchers and global experts to protect the integrity of clinical trials of novel vaccines to the highest international standards.
The UAE has already constructed state-of-the-art infrastructure owned and run by companies in our portfolio. Infrastructure of national importance such as AD Ports Group and industrial zones including those within Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), form the foundation of a national pharma ecosystem.
Mobilizing distribution is just as important as the UAE has demonstrated building an ecosystem that captures the opportunities to drive further economic growth. The HOPE Consortium’s vaccine supply chain leverages existing resources and capabilities including those of Etihad Cargo, KIZAD, Rafed and Maqta Gateway offering the UAE a conduit to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region while also deploying the technology, science, and partnerships needed to handle over 100 million vaccine doses across 40 countries.
Areas for institutional investment in pharma
Undoubtedly, healthcare has transformed since 2020. The seismic events of the past two years have encouraged governments to proactively spend more with a 5.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) increase from 2019 levels expected in the Middle East and North Africa.
Integrating the MENA region offers ripe opportunity for further investment. Governments are encouraging private sector investments that will benefit local manufacturers.
Private investment is largely expected to cover future healthcare costs as public-private-partnerships drive increased private spending in the sector. This naturally follows a collaborative model, but institutional investment accelerates the transformation of core sectors and optimizes the performance of businesses to create value.
Undeniably, access to high quality medicines and pharmaceuticals is essential for national health. For decades, investment into world-class healthcare facilities and services has been robust and this is the optimal time to increase investment in pharma.
Through the successes and learnings of recent events, we must channel our efforts into creating an end-to-end ecosystem that integrates the pharma value chain at every layer. By leveraging the UAE’s global connectivity, robust infrastructure, and importantly, the power of partnerships – we can galvanize industry leaders, investors and government to redefine regional pharma for future generations.