Posted on April 09, 2018

Strategies for bringing innovations in biomedical research to market to help diversify Qatar’s economy were discussed at the second Industry Academia Alliances conference, an event coordinated by Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).

The conference brought together leading biomedical research academics, local biomedical stakeholders in Qatar, and senior executives from both small and large biotech firms for two days of presentations, discussions and networking. The aim of the conference, now in its second iteration, is to stimulate collaborative alliances between industry and academia in order to facilitate the journey of new technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace, explained Dr. Khaled Machaca, Associate Dean of Medical Research at WCM-Q. 

WCM-Q conference boosts 2 [].jpg“We are interested in building bridges between industry and academia,” he said. “Our aim is to support the growth of an innovation eco-system in Qatar that promotes the translation of good research into clinical practice, which can then attract investment from industry and venture capital. Ultimately, the aim is to create an environment that allows new ideas to become successful commercial ventures that are based here in Qatar, establishing new revenue streams for the Qatari economy and closing the ‘research loop’.”

The event featured presentations from leading figures in the international biotech industry, including Dr. Robert. R. Ruffolo Jr., the retired President of Research and Development for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Corporate Senior Vice President of Wyeth (now Pfizer). In that role, Dr. Ruffolo managed an R&D organization of 9,000 scientists with a budget of $4billion. Other speakers included Dr. Thomas Caskey, Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas; Dr. Ronald Crystal, Chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York; and Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q.

Dr. Sheikh said: “Qatar has been tremendously supportive of biotech R&D, both in terms of establishing world-class research institutions and in developing human capital through education. Our goal now is to aid diversification of the economy by attracting ‘seasoned capital’ from local and international venture capital investors who have an appetite for taking calculated risks on biotech innovations that could deliver very significant rewards, both for them and for the economy in Qatar.”

WCM-Q’s Research Division has 25 active laboratories and has established a center of excellence in basic, translational and clinical biomedical research, with a special focus on the most pressing health challenges facing Qatar. Since 2010 WCM-Q faculty have published over 800 papers with an associated 16,000 citations. The Research Division also runs a series of programs offering research training to young people in Qatar. The conference was coordinated by WCM-Q in collaboration with Qatar Foundation, Hamad Medical Corporation, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar Biobank, Qatar Genome, Sidra Medicine and Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP). QSTP, a Qatar Foundation member, encourages growth and investment in Qatar’s hi-tech sector through its Free Zone, which allows for 100 percent foreign ownership, tariff-free imports and other tax incentives.

Also speaking at the event were leading figures from local research and healthcare institutions, including Dr. Hadi Abderrahim, Lead Strategy for Healthcare and Biomedical at Qatar Foundation R&D; Dr. Maher Hakim, Executive Director of QSTP; Dr. Marco A. E. Marcus, Chairman of Anesthesiology at Hamad Medical Corporation; and Dr. Richard O’Kennedy, Vice-President for Research at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, among others.