Emirates grows culture of success in unique laboratory

DuBiotech works across the health, food and marine sectors to house companies with new solutions and give them access to laboratories where they can test ideas and conduct research.

DuBiotech gives companies from the health, food and marine sectors access to labs. Satish Kumar / The National
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Commercialising innovations and new technologies is the natural step once patents are filed.

DuBiotech, Dubai’s dedicated biotechnology and research park and a centre for the life sciences, works across the health, food and marine sectors to house companies with new solutions and give them access to laboratories where they can test ideas and conduct research.

Since its inception in 2005, DuBiotech has attracted more than 120 companies, both international and regional. One of its main areas of focus has been the healthcare sector but recently it has moved towards the food and marine industries as well as the development of the advanced equipment required for all the three other sectors.

“When we attracted a good amount of companies, we went into what else we could do other than sales and marketing,” says Marwan Abdulaziz, the executive director at DuBiotech.

“It is very important to create an ecosystem, not just providing facilities, but information about the market, market access, regulatory environment,” he says. “That information is very important to provide this environment to enter the market.”

DuBiotech currently does not fund any research and development (R&D) but it is on the agenda.

“In five to 10 years time, we can talk about R&D, but having the base of companies that have strong access to the market, a good understanding is essential before we do any sort of R&D,” says Mr Abdulaziz.

One of DuBiotech’s most successful start-ups is HITS, the first private laboratory in the Middle East dedicated to halal and safety testing of consumer products, which was inaugurated into DuBiotech this month. HITS was founded by Hamed Jamal after discussions with Dubai Central Laboratory. It is a privately funded venture and charges for the service.

“The UAE in general is a very import-dependent country, there are new products that come into the country on a daily basis,” says Hamed Jamal, the managing director at HITS.

“The authorities cannot match that sort of pressure for testing, so we do a lot of routine tests for the new products they do not do.”

The global halal food business is worth US$685billion, according to the World Islamic Economic Forum. The GCC food market is worth an estimated $85bn. Muslim consumers spend more than $1 trillion on food and more than $26bn on cosmetics and personal care products worldwide, according to DuBiotech’s website. This is expected to increase to $1.6tn and $39bn respectively by 2019, it adds.

The term halal traditionally referred to meat slaughteted according to Sharia, but nowadays it covers all manner of foodstuffs and cosmetics that do not contain pork or its byproducts including fatty acids, enzymes and stem cells. Pork gelatin is one of the most common ingredients the HITS lab comes across. It is used in all types of foods that require a gelatinous texture, even the wax used for apples to make them shine is usually made from pork gelatin. HIT conducts the testing required for halal certification, but does not provide the accreditation.

“In countries where there is a majority of Muslims, [manufacturers] should customise their products,” says Mr Jamal. “I think this is the next step coming, it is a big thing.”

Dubai’s Government has outlined a plan to become the global centre for the Islamic economy and the halal sector is expected to be the biggest market after finance.

“Halal is not a barrier, it will double the business and make more opportunities if they prepare customised solution to make most of the market potential,” says Mr Jamal.


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