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Masdar City offers innovation-centric ecosystem for life sciences industry

Masdar City offers innovation-centric ecosystem for life sciences industry
8 July 2024 08:37

MAYS IBRAHIM (ABU DHABI)

Masdar City, renowned as a world-class technology and innovation hub, has established itself as a leading destination for life sciences companies seeking to expand their presence in the region and beyond. Its strategic efforts align with Abu Dhabi’s economic diversification ambitions towards a more prosperous, resilient, and sustainable future for the UAE.

In a recent interview with Aletihad, Eng. Mohamed Al Breiki, Executive Director for Sustainable Development at Masdar City highlighted its role in furthering the goals of the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 through supporting the development of a knowledge-based economy that leverages innovation, technology, and human capital to create value and competitiveness.

  • Masdar City offers innovation-centric ecosystem for life sciences industry

“We contribute to the growth of high-value and high-potential sectors that address the needs and aspirations of the UAE and the region, such as healthcare, food security, and environmental protection,” he said. These efforts are topped off with the ability to attract and retain local and international talent, investors, and partners that bolster the UAE’s standing as a global hub for innovation and excellence, according to Al Breiki.

A Global Innovation and Tech Hub

Al Breiki elaborated on Masdar City’s unique value proposition for life sciences companies, which lies in its combination of three key factors, including infrastructure, location, and business environment.

Masdar City offers unrivalled connectivity, thanks to its strategic location in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, a regional hub for trade, commerce, and culture.

  • Masdar City offers innovation-centric ecosystem for life sciences industry

“We are only five minutes away from the Abu Dhabi International Airport, 20 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi, and 45 minutes from Dubai. Our location enables us to connect with local and international partners and customers, as well as tap into the diverse and talented pool of human capital in the UAE and globally,” said Al Breiki.

As a free zone, Masdar City boasts an innovation-centric ecosystem conducive to business growth for its tenants. It provides 100% foreign ownership, zero percent import tariffs, cost-effective licensing, and a one-stop shop for speedy visa processing and other business services. The city also supports eligible investors and entrepreneurs with long-term residency visas, known as golden visas.

“These factors contribute to fostering innovation in the life sciences sector by providing our tenants with the optimal conditions and resources to develop and test their ideas, products, and services,” Al Breiki affirmed. “We enable them to leverage the latest technologies and best practices in sustainability, while benefitting from the UAE’s vision and leadership in economic diversification and social development”.

He further noted that Masdar City takes pride in aligning with the UAE’s commitment to sustainability and climate action, as well as its social and cultural values and identity. The city has one of the highest concentrations of low-carbon buildings in the world, designed to achieve at least 40% greater water and energy efficiency than conventional structures, according to Al Breiki.

“Our LEED Platinum buildings provide a healthy and comfortable environment for our tenants, while reducing their operational costs and environmental impact. We also have state-of-the-art facilities and laboratories for research and development, such as the Omics Center of Excellence, the region’s first gene sequencing facility, and the G42 Healthcare’s COVID-19 testing and diagnostics lab, one of the world’s largest.”

Fostering Innovation Through Sustainability

Al Breiki affirmed that Masdar City’s commitment to sustainability, evident in its infrastructure of LEED Platinum buildings, benefits life sciences companies through enhancing their wellbeing and productivity. It also helps them achieve their sustainability targets, and serves as a model for green building design, encouraging tenants to integrate similar principles into their own projects and products.

He added that the sustainable environment of Masdar City influences research and development efforts in the life sciences sector by stimulating innovation and creativity.

“Our tenants are exposed to the latest technologies and solutions in sustainability, such as renewable energy, water conservation, waste management, and smart mobility. They are also part of a diverse and dynamic community that shares a common vision and mission of creating a more sustainable future for all. These factors encourage our tenants to think outside the box and explore new ways of addressing the challenges and opportunities in the life sciences sector”.

A Top Choice for Life Science Companies

Aletihad spoke to representatives of companies based in Masdar City, who highlighted the myriad benefits provided by its ecosystem, also offering insights into the work conducted by their respective organisations and its contribution to advancing the life sciences sector in Abu Dhabi.

Islam ElTantawy, General Manager of IROS, said that Masdar City’s commitment to sustainable urban development aligned with the “strict business criterion” guiding the organisation’s location search.

“IROS, part of the M42 group, merges health, technology and sustainability, to ensure the wellbeing of both the planet and people. Masdar City serves as a living example for clean energy and sustainable technologies, integrating renewable energy, efficient waste management, and sustainable transportation solutions. The location and ecosystem, coupled with other forward-thinking businesses and researchers fosters a culture of innovation”.

As the first UAE-based Contract Research Organisation (CRO) specialising in healthcare research, IROS plays a pivotal role in advancing the life sciences sector in Abu Dhabi. In addition to clinical research, IROS provides biobanking services, omics technologies, and clinical and laboratory services to accelerate medical innovation and deliver accurate, impactful scientific communication.

“This contributes significantly to Abu Dhabi’s position as an incubator for innovation and scientific research in the health sector, marking a significant milestone in the UAE’s growing prominence in global healthcare research and development,” said ElTantawy.

Alex Zhavoronkov, Founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, echoed similar sentiments: “Masdar City is an ideal location for us, as it provides a world-class platform for research, development, and innovation in the fields of sustainability, clean energy, and advanced technology.”

Insilico Medicine is a pioneer in applying artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning to drug discovery and development, leveraging Masdar City’s state-of-the-art facilities and collaborative network to advance biopharmaceutical solutions and biomarkers of aging and diseases.

The company uses its proprietary AI platform to generate novel molecules, validate their biological activity, and optimise their pharmacological properties. Insilico Medicine also develops biomarkers of aging and diseases and provides AI solutions to biopharmaceutical and healthcare clients.

Zhavoronkov said: “Operating out of Masdar City, Insilico Medicine aims to advance the life sciences sector in Abu Dhabi by collaborating with local academic, clinical, and industrial partners, and by supporting the development of a skilled and talented workforce in the field of AI and biotechnology.

“The company also seeks to align its mission with the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 and the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which aim to foster innovation, diversification, and sustainability in the economy and society.”

Collaboration and Synergy

Al Breiki pointed out that Masdar City supports collaboration and synergy among the various entities in the life sciences sector by creating a dynamic community that encourages knowledge sharing, networking, and co-creation.

Through regular events and workshops that bring together tenants and stakeholders, Masdar City promotes idea exchange and partnerships, in addition to facilitating access to funding and investment, through entities such as the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, he noted.

Masdar City’s life sciences cluster has seen notable collaborations. G42 Healthcare and Omics Center of Excellence partnered to launch the Emirati Genome Programme, aimed at mapping the UAE population’s genome for personalised healthcare solutions.

The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) and M42 together launched the region’s largest hybrid cord blood bank as part of the Abu Dhabi Biobank, which will collect and preserve newborn stem cells as a “bio-repair kit” for potentially lifesaving treatments.

The DoH in Abu Dhabi also signed a memorandum of understanding with Masdar City to collaborate on promoting bioconvergence, a new paradigm that integrates biology, engineering, physics, and data science to create novel solutions for health and other domains.

The UAE’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), based in Masdar City, drives impactful technologies through the Technology Innovation Institute (TII) and the ASPIRE programme, funding disruptive research projects.

As collaborations flourish and new initiatives take shape, Masdar City remains steadfast in its mission to drive the future of biotechnology and healthcare innovation in the region and beyond.
 

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