The groundbreaking of the Saudi Vaccine and Biomanufacturing Center (SVBC), the first of its kind in the Middle East, took place at KAUST on December 15.
The ceremony was held under the patronage of HE Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and chairman of the KAUST Board of Trustees, and in the presence of KAUST’s strategic partners King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST); The Industrial Clusters (IC); Research Products Development Company (RPDC); and SaudiVax Ltd.
The Saudi Vaccine and Biomanufacturing Center is the first research and industrial center in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to develop vaccines and biopharmaceutical products. It will run in adherence to good manufacturing practice (GMP) for biologic pharmaceutical drugs production and will develop and produce the first line of defense against epidemic risks in the Kingdom, such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
The center is based at the KAUST Research and Technology Park, which is home to world-leading tenants in research and development. Their choice of KAUST embodies the University’s long-term commitment to pushing the industry forward.
“The KAUST Research and Technology Park is an innovation base for 28 companies—from startups to multinationals—and offers partners access to KAUST’s cutting edge lab facilities and the opportunity to collaborate with our world-class faculty, researchers and students,” said Dr. Tony Chan, KAUST president.
The joint project is championed by the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources through the Industrial Clusters Program and is supported by KACST.
Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud, president of KACST, underlined the importance of the national project for the Kingdom and KACST’s keenness to support the establishment of “a world-class national platform for research and pharmaceutical innovation, hoping to translate research discoveries into biopharmaceuticals that can be tested in clinical trials and manufactured into marketable products,” he said.
The center will be run by young Saudi graduates in science and technology and will function as a training platform for those in biopharmaceutical industry.
“This agreement will establish the basic pillars of the support of advanced pharmaceutical industries,” said Nizar bin Yousef Jamal Al-Hariri, president of the IC. “It will support Saudi training programs dedicated to advance this industry that is of great importance to the Kingdom and the region at economic, healthcare and social levels with the National Industry Development and Logistics Program supported by His Excellency the Minister of Industry Eng. Khalid Al-Falih.”
The groundbreaking ceremony is a significant milestone that follows the agreement that the Research Products Development Company (RPDC), a subsidiary of the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA), signed with SaudiVax to establish the R&D center. A cooperation agreement was signed between SaudiVax and with Samsung Engineering for the construction of SVBC, with GE Healthcare to supply the equipment and with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies for the development of a treatment for MERS-CoV.
“Together with our partners, our vision is to create an advanced center that takes biopharmaceutical research from the lab through to the delivery of patient health in Saudi Arabia,” President Chan said.
The size of the vaccine market in Saudi Arabia is about $400 million annually, while biological medicines represent $1 billion, with an approximate annual growth rate of 15 percent. The size of the global vaccine market is about $30 billion and the global biological medicines market is about $300 billion.