Bahrain eyeing investments to make vaccines

BAHRAIN is eyeing investments to develop vaccine manufacturing facilities to cater to the larger region, said a top government official.

National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) chief executive Dr Maryam Al Jalahma revealed the plan during a session hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce to highlight the country’s success in Building Resilient Healthcare Systems in the Gulf.

“There are a lot of investment opportunities in Bahrain, beginning with new technologies or medical devices. There are local manufacturers who have started producing masks after the outbreak of the pandemic,” said Dr Al Jalahma.

“There was an intention to develop a rapid antigen test manufacturing site. Now Mumtalakat (Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund) is keenly looking for manufacturing sites for vaccines that will not only cover Bahrain but also the entire Mena region.

“We have also licensed two manufacturing facilities, one of them for food supplements, and it’s going to supply the US market as well.”

The GDN reported in 2020 on the multi-million-dollar projects at the Bahrain International Investment Park - Bahrain Pharma (worth $50 million), which produces multivitamin capsules and tablets, and Gulf Biotech (worth $80m) that produces injection vials.

In October last year, NHRA granted licence to Aegis Medical to operate its 750sqm facemask factory, the first-of its kind in the country. The facility in Hidd has already started producing ‘Made in Bahrain’ quality N95 and 3-PLY masks to meet the soaring local demand in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bahrain has also announced plans to set up a factory to manufacture Russian vaccines, starting with Sputnik V, to tackle Covid-19.

Dr Al Jalahma highlighted the scope for private sector to engage in clinical trials and research in the country.

“Most of the Covid-19 research was conducted by the government, but if we consider pharmaceuticals and medical device companies, they represent the private sector in terms of technology, and that’s where we work with them,” she added.

“When it comes to clinical trials, interested parties should approach us. As an international health regulatory authority, we have our guidelines which are published on the NHRA website.

“For those who are interested, we can even help them find researchers locally.”

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Steven Bondy pointed out the importance of the recently established US Trade Zone (USTZ) in Bahrain which would aid American companies looking to invest in the kingdom. Part of the investment and strategic projects package announced in the Industry Sector Strategy (2022-2026), USTZ in Salman Industrial City comes within the economic recovery plan, with an area of approximately 110,000sqm.

“This is designed to be kind of a multimodal Logistics Centre - air, land and sea - and to focus on American investment and exploiting opportunities within the broader region,” Mr Bondy said.

“And it’s a straight shot across the causeway into Saudi Arabia, which of course is a massive market.”

The ambassador also lauded the agreement signed by Bahrain’s Health Ministry with its Israeli counterpart last week.

“This is something that US very much supports, there is a lot of cutting-edge medical research and technology in Israel. We’re trying to facilitate joint ventures and opportunities between our two very good friends and allies - Bahrain and Israel - we think this also represents a real opportunity for growth,” he added.




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