June 17, 2024

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AstraZeneca and Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia agree landmark biotechnology partnership 

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AstraZeneca and Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have signed two landmark agreements with King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC)(1) designed to advance the Kingdom’s bold healthcare transformation ambitions. The robust agreements will enhance the innovation ecosystem, with a focus on cutting edge technology transfer and investing in capability building to support the Kingdom’s vision promoting a knowledge-based economy.  

The official signing ceremonies took place at the Riyadh Global Summit for Biotechnology, which also featured a keynote speech on research & development (R&D) productivity by Sir Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca Executive Vice President for BioPharmaceuticals R&D.

Testament to AstraZeneca’s commitment to support the Kingdom in achieving its top healthcare sector transformation priorities under the Saudi Vision 2030, the first agreement focuses on research and development, including cutting edge technology for drug discovery, and the second focuses on innovation, which will bring KAIMRC into the A.Catalyst Network,(2) an interconnected global network of more than 20 AstraZeneca health innovation hubs.(3) Through this network, Saudi will be exhibited as an innovation hub to attract global start-ups to establish activity in the Kingdom. Reciprocally, the network will enable the export of Saudi start-ups. 

The R&D collaboration will establish a joint AstraZeneca/KAIMRC lab in Riyadh with the aspiration to discover drugs for rare diseases. AstraZeneca’s lab in Gothenburg will serve as training for KAIMRC scientists and to familiarise them with AstraZeneca technology. AstraZeneca scientists from the Gothenburg site will also spend time in the joint lab in KAIMRC to ensure proper set-up for a high standard lab for gene editing. Both agreements are underpinned by significant investment in human capital through the generation of opportunities for Saudi scientists.  

This strategic partnership will build on a strong research and clinical trials capacities and capabilities in genomics and rare diseases that KAIMRC has built over the last several years as well as fully digitized state of the art healthcare system under the Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs. 

Sir Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca Executive Vice President for BioPharmaceuticals R&D, said, “I am delighted to be launching this landmark partnership which will accelerate the ambitious healthcare transformation already underway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In line with our mission to help build sustainable, more resilient healthcare systems, the agreement seeks to boost capabilities in research and development, and drive innovation. Spanning across rare diseases, oncology and cardiovascular, renal and metabolic diseases, the collaboration will embrace cutting edge technologies to help to improve the health of millions of people in Saudi Arabia and across the region.” 

On this occasion, H.E Prof. Bandar Al Knawy, CEO of National Guard Health Affairs, said: “These landmark agreements will help the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continue our path to becoming a global center of excellence in biotechnology. We are excited to begin delivering on this ambitious partnership, which will enable our health system, and most importantly patients, to benefit from AstraZeneca’s leading technology and know-how in rare diseases, cancer and more.”  

Pelin Incesu, Area Vice President, Middle East and Africa, said: “Focusing on rare diseases, oncology, and cardiovascular, renal and metabolic health, the agreement signed today addresses some of the most pressing health needs in Saudi Arabia and beyond and advances AstraZeneca’s mission to build sustainable, more resilient healthcare systems across the world. We are excited to deepen our partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by supporting cutting-edge research and innovation that will improve healthcare outcomes and save lives.” 

The stage was set for this collaboration upon the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between AstraZeneca and The Ministry of Investment and the Ministry of the National Guard Health Affairs in September 2021. The MoU described a partnership aimed for investment in localization, innovation and clinical research, including clinical trials and real-world evidence generation.  During this process it became increasingly clear that there was a need to come up with collaborations that include transfer of technology and know-how from AstraZeneca Global R&D hub to the Kingdom. 

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