With multiple projects in mHealth, telehealth, genomics, robotics, digital hospitals – and now, a cancer R&D and manufacturing facility – the UAE continues to solidify its claim as the hub of healthcare and digital health growth in the Middle East.
The UAE is strongly keeping its commitment to become one of the world’s premier medical tourism destinations, as well as a digital health and wellness hub. The number of projects by health innovators in government and the private sector to help realize this goal has grown rapidly in recent years. Now we can add a state-of-the-art cancer research and manufacturing facility to that growing list.
New Facility to Produce Anti-Cancer Drugs
The Ministry of Health (MOH) and LIFE Pharma is building a new, world-class oncology center at the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad) that will become the first facility in the GCC region to produce anti-cancer drugs. The facility will follow standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
In a statement, the MOH said that by combining the “latest technologies and world class expertise to contribute to the discovery of new cancer therapies,” the facility will help “establish Abu Dhabi and the UAE on the world map of medical research.”
“We are very pleased to see our plans for a new research and manufacturing centre progressing. The new plant will be a game changer for the local and regional pharma industry,” said Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, managing director, VPS Healthcare, who owns LIFE Pharma, told Arabian Business.
Building a world-class oncology R&D facility will help the UAE prepare for the coming rise of cancer cases brought about by the concomitant spike in obesity and diabetes rates among Emiratis – as well as across the world. According to the UAE MOH,
“cancer is the third leading cause of death in the country after cardiovascular diseases and accidents, and it accounts for nearly 500 deaths annually.”
The project – the first of four facilities planned by VPS Healthcare – will be completed by the last quarter of 2015, and will be operational by 2016.
Expansion of Medical Facilities
Contracts to build medical facilities in the GCC region are expected to grow to $9.53 billion by the end of 2014 or 25 percent more from the prior year. The UAE, as the second-largest healthcare market in the region behind Saudi Arabia, has doubled its healthcare budget since 2007, and is on a hospital construction spree to cope with burgeoning demand from medical tourists.
Abu Dhabi will open the fully-digital multi-specialty hospital Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) next year. Meantime, Dubai is planning to build 18 private and four public hospitals over the next few years to attract 500,000 medical tourists by 2020. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has recently hired 500 foreign nurses to augment its healthcare workforce to help run the new facilities.
The new hospitals and health centers will offer telehealth, mHealth and telemedicine services. As previously stated in a nuviun article, Abdul Rahman Al Owais, the UAE’s Minister for Health, said, “The country is facing a major public health challenge with non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, and this partnership represents our commitment to fight these diseases by delivering high quality mobile health (mhealth) services to all Emiratis and expats regardless of location.”
Expansion of Research
The UAE is also keen on expanding its home-grown expertise and talent base to understand these chronic diseases, as well as genetic diseases peculiar to the Middle Eastern patient population.
The Dubai Health Authority and the Imagine Institute of Genetic Diseases of France inked a pact earlier this year on genomics research. The deal builds upon existing projects, like Dubai’s Catalogue for Transmission Genetics in Arabs (CTGA) database at the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS), which uses big data analytics to compile and analyze more than 1,600 records of genetic disorders in the region.
Also, the UAE has secured a deal with the Al Jalila Foundation to give local scientists fellowship and seed grants worth up to AED 300,000 to perform clinical research studies in the UAE. Those studies will be performed in collaboration with newly-built facilities such as Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Centre in Dubai, a planned teaching hospital and medical college in Dubai Silicon Oasis that will open in 2017, and Abu Dhabi’s first medical school at Khalifa University.
Use of Robotics
These state-of-the-art hospitals have robots helping care providers. Khalifa University has the FLOAT system (Free Levitation for Overground Active Training) for patients with movement disabilities, and the Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi has the first robot pharmacist in the GCC. Zeno, a humanoid robot, is helping children with autism in the UAE.
With all bases seemingly covered with regards to infrastructure, finance, and know-how, the bold ambition of the UAE to become a model as a medical tourism hub through multiple projects is coming to fruition. Even more promising for the UAE and the GCC, is that – unlike the rest of the world – it is relatively untethered to crippling overregulation and the slow pace of innovation that has plagued other healthcare systems.
In this regard, the UAE can continue on its path of innovation in the digital healthcare space and world-class healthcare in general – leapfrogging others – in making truly life-saving healthcare outcomes for Emiratis and other patients from all over the world.