Bahrain is to open a new pharmaceutical research centre with the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.
The new project will act as a gateway for pharmaceutical companies into the Gulf market by contracting companies to carry out clinical trials.
Trials which take months in Europe could be carried out "safely and to rigorous international standards" in Bahrain within weeks. RCSI Bahrain and Bahrain’s Ministry of Health and National Health Regulatory Authority were involved in the development of the project.
The RCSI said Bahrain has the necessary infrastructure to be at the heart of research in the Gulf. More than 80 per cent of pharmaceutical products are imported from outside the region.
“There is a clear and growing opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to set up and trade in the Middle East region. But it’s not just about getting products into the market. You need a solid base to tap into the full potential the region has to offer," said Prof Stephen Atkin of RCSI Bahrain.
“There are four requirements needed to conduct clinical trials: facilities, access to patients, regulation and research integrity. Bahrain offers all of those at a fraction of the cost of Europe and America. It is also much faster to secure approvals in Bahrain due to the proactive nature of the NHRA. Approvals for trials in the kingdom can take around five to six weeks. The same study in Ireland might take up to nine months and may not be feasible given costs.”
RCSI Bahrain has completed two national clinical trials involving Covid patients, the first based on analysing the effectiveness of convalescent plasma from recovered patients.
The second examined the effectiveness of the drug Favipiravir against hydroxychloroquine. A third clinical trial in Bahrain worth around $1.7 million is under way.
The global market for pharmaceutical trials is valued at $1.2 trillion, with the Middle East and North Africa market at $1.36 billion in 2020 and projected to rise to $1.95bn by 2025.
“The Kingdom of Bahrain is focused on developing a regional base for international healthcare companies and a leading centre for modern medicine," Ali Al Mudaifa of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board said. "Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, RCSI has demonstrated through multiple clinical trials that Bahrain can be an internationally recognised leader in the pharma space.”
The RCSI, based in Dublin, opened an international campus in Bahrain in 2004 and also provides medical education in Malaysia and Dubai.