Algeria, US launch biotech partnership
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 13/06/11
Algeria and the United States are planning to carry out joint research and development in the fields of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. The goal is to make Algeria the North African leader in the pharmaceutical industry.
The first-ever Algerian-American Health Forum wrapped up in Algiers on Thursday (June 9th), with an agreement to create an international biotechnology and drug manufacturing hub in Algeria.
Smail Chikhoune, president of the US-Algeria Business Council, said he hoped that a bridge would be built between Algeria and the US so that American know-how could be passed on to Algerian companies.
This link "should shine across the Middle East and North Africa", he said.
"The Americans believe in it," he told Magharebia. "This is proven by the fact that they are allocating $100 billion to research and development in the field of new molecules."
"All obstacles or impediments to development in this field will be addressed with all due diligence and speed," vowed Algerian Industry Minister Mohamed Benmeradi. The education ministry also pledged its support to the project.
Health Minister Djamel Ould Abbes hailed the opportunities for the development of a partnership that will be "multi-faceted, lasting and profitable for both parties". He also said that pharmacists would be trained in the United States and announced the forthcoming launch of a new proprietary drug in Algeria.
To implement the project, however, the Americans are hoping for a relaxation of Algerian laws on investment, which they deemed "protectionist". William Jordan, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Algiers, mentioned in particular the issue of drug registration, which currently takes more than two years.
Participants at the forum came away with a desire to invest in Algeria. Cellia K. Habita, the president of a clinical research organisation (CRO) based in San Diego, said she was hoping to carry out clinical drug trials in Algeria. As an Algerian national who graduated from Houari Boumediene University in Bab Ezzouar, she believes her country is lagging behind others such as Egypt and Tunisia in this field.
"Our CRO has a presence in many countries, such as India, Canada and South Africa. We would like to invest in Algeria, but there are still a few problems, such as the lack of regulations. Doctors and the population also need training," Habita told Magharebia.
At present, oil and gas account for 97% of trade between Algeria and the United States, according to the Council of Algerian-American Affairs. If hydrocarbons are excluded, Algeria's exports to its biggest customer are worth $500 million per year. The volume of trade between Algeria and the United States in 2010 was nearly $16 billion.
"This is why we would like to encourage investment in medicines," Chikhoune told Magharebia. Medical imports rose from $500 million in 2000 to $1.85 billion in 2008. Algeria imports 70% of its drugs, and authorities hope the new partnership can reduce that figure.
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