Having addressed the Covid-19 pandemic, the most significant public health challenge in recent times, with a swift and effective response, the UAE continues to invest in healthcare as a national priority. But where will the next wave of innovation come from? As the country’s population expands and healthcare needs evolve, the sector must move forward with it.
A lesson for the industry overall was that it took a considerable collaborative effort between governments, global and local health authorities, biopharmaceutical companies, research institutions, medical providers, healthcare practitioners, manufacturers, transport, and logistics players, and many more to work together to manage the pandemic and to deliver vital equipment and vaccines.
Public and private players (public-private partnerships or PPPs) will continue to be a vital tool towards realising the Vision 2030 goals of a future-ready, knowledge-based, sustainable, and innovation-focused economy, which necessitates a first-rate healthcare system.
A win-win situation where both commercial and developmental goals are achieved, PPPs combine private sector talent, technology, innovation, and funding, with reduced risks, project efficiency and access to larger markets thanks to government partners. In the case of healthcare, the promotion of PPPs comes at a time when driven by growing demand, the health expenditure will rise to $26bn (Dhs95.5bn) by 2028.
With these new growth opportunities an increasing number of new healthcare players, both established as well as startups, are entering the market, driving innovation and competition but at the same time encouraging more partnerships with local and overseas companies.
Among these, partnerships with the private sector are supporting the Department of Health’s Emirati Genome Program – the world’s most comprehensive population genomics initiative. By helping to better understand the genetic makeup of the UAE population, it will help improve patient outcomes for the local population. The partnership has also seen the region’s first dedicated contract research organisation (IROS) launched for conducting clinical research with and for local populations.
Many of these newly formed partnerships are expected to support the healthcare industry’s next phase of major expansion. As the UAE focuses on developing domestic research and development capabilities, PPPs, supported by recent regulatory reforms, are likely to support more in-country clinical trials and the launch of new biopharma manufacturing and production facilities. This will allow companies to focus on the development of medicines to address areas of high unmet need, such as the treatment of rare diseases.
As the healthcare sector adds more players and partnerships, especially in R&D, patients will enjoy the resulting benefits, among them reduced costs, greater choice, and more robust supply chains, ensuring the industry is better equipped to meet local population needs. Concurrently, the focus on R&D will also support the development of a more mature healthcare ecosystem, supporting the advancement of medical education and critical skills while helping to attract global talent.
Fundamentally, collaborative efforts between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers ensure a more patient-centric, coordinated approach to medicine. As the UAE is now demonstrating, collaboration is key to advancing the healthcare sector in terms of exploring new areas, as well as in terms of efficiency and innovation. A world-class healthcare sector requires that all players collaborate wherever synergies are found and leverage one another’s strengths to meet the challenges of tomorrow. In the UAE, PPPs are providing a framework to do just that.
Rodrigo Rodriguez is the GM Middle East Cluster, Takeda