Saudi Arabia has focused strategy for scaling innovation in biotech: Bain Capital senior adviser

Saudi Arabia has focused strategy for scaling innovation in biotech: Bain Capital senior adviser
Stephen Pagliuca said Saudi Arabia has a focused strategy for scaling innovation in biotech. (SUPPLIED)
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Updated 16 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia has focused strategy for scaling innovation in biotech: Bain Capital senior adviser

Saudi Arabia has focused strategy for scaling innovation in biotech: Bain Capital senior adviser

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is paving the way for a thriving biotech sector, benefiting its citizens and the international community by launching the National Biotechnology Strategy, with a far-reaching impact on biomanufacturing and medical innovation, according to a leading investor in the industry.

On the sidelines of the World Governments Summit, senior adviser to Bain Capital, Stephen Pagliuca, who is also co-owner of the US basketball team the Boston Celtics, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia was making significant strides in scaling innovation in biotechnology.

“Saudi Arabia has a very focused strategy for scaling innovation in biotech, but it is still early in the stages of biotech,” he said.

As part of its efforts, NBS aims to contribute more than $34 billion to its non-oil GDP by 2040.

NBS’s strategic directions are vaccines, biomanufacturing, localization, genomics and plant optimization.

Pagliuca said that the country was on the path to successfully creating a significant impact once capital was raised.

“There are great universities in Saudi Arabia, with 50 percent of its citizens under 25. So they have got the ingredients, but they need the capital.”

Bain Capital has a lot of experience in the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia, the entrepreneur said.

“We work with the Saudi Public Investment Fund and other funds, too. So I’m hoping something will come out of that with the Saudis investing in biotech in the United States.”

He told Arab News that a golden age of biotechnology was beginning.

“Biotech is health tech, it is pharma. It is trying to find basic disease mechanisms and how to defeat those using modern techniques like gene editing and natural processes to solve those problems through biotech.”

Pagliuca said that 20 years ago, mapping one human genome costs billions of dollars. “Now, we have seen a revolution in supercomputing and AI, which has made biotech drug development a lot more efficient.” 

Pagliuca said that he had formed a company called Arena Bioworks to develop life-saving drugs using AI. He said that this combined the best-demonstrated practices from universities and foreign pharma companies and had them working together.

“Through the company, we are going to be talking to several Gulf countries on how they can leverage that to help build a biotech ecosystem.”

Pagliuca said that the public and private sectors must collaborate to accelerate the global biotech industry.

“At Arena Bioworks, we try to work with the government to get more speedy approvals of applications and trials, and get out life-saving drugs rather than have a bureaucracy that takes a long time to process everything.” 

Pagliuca said that with global communications, people and governments could work together to help humanity and produce products faster, better and cheaper.