PIF sets up investment company Lifera to boost domestic pharma industry

Company will produce life-saving drugs and partner with local and international companies to launch manufacturing facilities in the kingdom

The Riyadh skyline. The PIF says Lifera will also help the kingdom to become more resilient and diversify its manufacturing base. Reuters
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Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has launched a biopharmaceutical sector-focused investment company that will produce drugs and launch joint ventures with local and international companies in the kingdom to develop the country’s pharma industry.

The Pharmaceutical Investment Company, or Lifera as it is known, is a specialised Saudi commercial contract development and manufacturing concern that will also help the kingdom to become more resilient and support its goal of becoming a global pharmaceutical manufacturing destination, the PIF said in a statement on Sunday.

Lifera plans to focus on manufacturing life-saving and essential pharmaceutical products, including insulins, vaccines, plasma therapeutics, monoclonal antibodies, cell and gene therapies, and innovative small molecules.

It will partner with local and international companies to boost investment into the kingdom’s biopharmaceutical sector to help grow local manufacturing capacity.

PIF intends to make “targeted investments” to support supply chains, accelerate skills, create new jobs and enable technology transfer from international private sector partners.

PIF did not give the size of planned investments or say when the new company will start manufacturing pharmaceutical products.

“Biologics represents one of the most critical and fastest-growing pharmaceutical segments, both in Saudi Arabia and globally,” Yazeed Al Humied, deputy governor and head of Mena Investments at PIF, said.

“Lifera intends to partner with leading companies in the sector to localise manufacturing … and enable the private sector to scale up, ensuring easier access for patients, whilst securing supply of life-saving medicines that can meet local, regional and global demand.”

Sovereign funds, government-related entities and private sector investors are increasingly looking to invest in the pharma sector in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, to cut their dependence on imports of life-saving drugs and vaccines and develop national resilience, as well as broaden their manufacturing base.

In January this year, Mubadala Investment Company, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign investment arm, and US-based National Resilience, a technology-focused manufacturer, signed a biopharma investment deal that will boost the UAE’s life sciences sector.

Through a development agreement, Mubadala is establishing a new manufacturing plant in the UAE, which will be operated by Resilience to make biopharmaceutical-related products, Mubadala said in a statement at the time.

Biologics represents one of the most critical and fastest-growing pharmaceutical segments, both in Saudi Arabia and globally
Yazeed Al Humied, deputy governor and head of Mena Investments at PIF

In December, Mubadala tied up with Group 42, the artificial intelligence and cloud computing company, to set up a biopharmaceutical manufacturing campus in Abu Dhabi.

The new facility plans to tap into global vaccine and therapeutic products to strengthen regional supply chains.

The PIF, through its strategic investments, “aspires to be a vital enabler, acting as a catalyst to innovate and enhance the healthcare ecosystem, whilst creating significant opportunities for the domestic private sector”, it said on Sunday.

In a bid to strengthen the supply chain of pharmaceutical products, the sovereign fun has also invested in the National Unified Procurement Company, a provider of medical procurement, storage and distribution services for medicines, devices and medical supplies to the Saudi healthcare sector.

The PIF is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. It is at the heart of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative, an overarching economic reform agenda to cut the country’s reliance on sale of hydrocarbons to fuel its economy.

is Since 2017, PIF has established 79 companies across its 13 strategic sectors.

The fund has more than 2 trillion riyals in assets under management and it aims to double that by 2025, PIF governor Yasir Al Rumayyan said last month.

The PIF has been instrumental in creating more than 500,000 direct and indirect jobs and intends to create another 1.8 million by 2025, Mr Al Rumayyan said.

It also plans to inject up to 1 trillion riyals into new projects in Saudi Arabia and “will continue its efforts to diversify the economy, support local content, develop innovative opportunities for the future and contribute to creating an attractive environment for investments”, he said at the time.

Updated: June 19, 2023, 6:15 AM