In the presence of high-level delegates from King Saud University, the SaudiVax Co. and GE, the National Industrial Clusters Development Program (NICDP) hosted the signing of mutual Memorandums of Understanding to localize the vaccine manufacturing industry the Kingdom and grow the academic research & development in line with the latest state-of-the-art technologies and innovation in the biotech industry. The ceremony was attended by Dr. Abdul Rahman M Al-Muammar, CEO of University Medical City of KSU, John Rice, vice chairman and president of GE International, and the SaudiVax Company top leadership represented by Dr. Mazen M. Hassanain, CEO, and Dr. Donald Gerson, COO who is also CEO of PnuVax, Canada. They were joined by senior academics and dignitaries from a variety of private and government entities. NICDP President Khalid M Al-Salem exuded excitement over the signing of such agreements, which will lay the foundation for a framework enabling the Kingdom to establish customized solutions for self-sufficiency and pandemic preparedness in the region and the entire Islamic World. NICDP has spent the past years diligently analyzing and reviewing alternative technologies to enable localization of vaccine manufacturing. Now, Al-Salem, expressed excitement about bringing in GE as a strategic enabler, thanks to GE’s vast experience in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and drug discovery, including their flexible factories designed for the future needs of this industry. In addition to localizing industries and diversifying the economy, NICDP further emphasized the critical role of Ministry of Health and its hopes of working closely together to achieve self-sufficiency and to resolve national health security issues.
Dr. Abdul Rahman M. Al-Muammar emphasized that KSU is building the required capacities to establish the full value chain to sustain successful vaccine localization in the Kingdom. In doing so, the university is building a vaccine Research & Development lab, a clinical trial unit, and an educational curriculum for technicians and specialized scientists. KSU and other academic institutions will play a critical role in building a knowledge-based community, serving the nation and seeking to achieve the ‘Saudi Vision 2030’. In turn, the SaudiVax Company CEO Dr. Mazen M. Hassanain explained that SaudiVax is the creation of an indigenous, world class, state-of-the-art Halal vaccine and biopharmaceutical capability to serve the needs of Saudi Arabia and OIC member state countries. SaudiVax wants to make Saudi Arabia self-sufficient in a number of vital products and, in concert with its partners PnuVax and KSU, to have the capability to respond quickly to emerging localized issues. SaudiVax will employ a significant number of highly qualified and skilled Saudi Nationals in support of the ‘Saudi Vision 2030’. From his side, NICDP VP for Pharmaceutical and Biotech Nizar Y. Al-Hariri emphasized the importance of biopharma self-sufficiency not only for the Kingdom but for the entire Middle East region, due to the economic and geo-political challenges. Al-Hariri pointed out that the Kingdom must lead the way serving the entire Islamic community establishing local vaccine manufacturing protecting all, from our young children to the entire population in the case of an epidemic outbreak. David Carr, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, Saudi Arabia, said: “Building local manufacturing units for vaccines serves both the needs of the Kingdom and surrounding countries. The goal is not only to provide the technology and ability to enable self-sufficiency and ensure a faster pandemic response, but also to drive diversification of the economy by establishing a new bio-tech industry and take the country a step closer to its ‘Saudi Vision 2030’.” In line with Saudi Vision 2030, it is worth noting that the NICDP is focused in developing other industries including automotive, and specialized downstream industries in metals and plastics. Currently, NICDP and its board of directors are reviewing additional critical industries, such as military, energy and water desalination.