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February 28, 2012

Pakistan’s life sciences market gaining international attraction


February 28, 2012

Pakistan is a growing market for life sciences and biotechnologies, and a country where they, as well as public health research and related fields, have great potentials for beneficial social, economic and health impacts. Multilateral cooperation of Pakistan with international partners such as European Union (EU) could significantly increase the footprint of this impact.
These views were expressed by Professor Maurizio Martellini, Secretary General of the Landau Network-Centro Volta and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Insubria (Como, Italy), at an in-house talk, organised by the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) on the subject titled ‘Conceptualizing a future cooperation with Pakistan in Bio and Health sectors’.
The talk was attended by members from Pakistan’s strategic community, scientific experts, medical and health sector representatives and ambassadors from different countries.
Elaborating the prospects of cooperation, Prof. Maurizio took stock of Pakistan’s biotechnology and medical industry and said that research in academia is rapidly developing; publications by Pakistani research teams rose to four-folds in the last decade, and the majority of publications from major universities come from the life sciences.
He said that university departments in Pakistan dealing with life science research amount to over 200, with increasing numbers in general and particularly in the biotechnologies and applied science sectors. He was of the view that Pakistan’s biotechnology industry seems also to have been a priority for the government support and in 2010 the country boasted its first biotech plant.
Describing the expertise of EU in this regard Prof Maurizio elaborated that the European Union (EU) and its member states (EUMS) have substantial and advanced S&T capabilities related to clinical and research biological safety, as well as related ICT, commercialisation, applicative and start-up

management. The opportunity and the interests of better structuring S&T relations and cooperation with Pakistan are growing, he said.
Outlining his vision for cooperation, Prof Maurizio said that cooperation projects which are sustainable in both policy and financial terms should increase the S&T exchanges, favour socio-economical impacts of scientific and technological improvements, and implement improved safety and security good practices and standards, all with medium- and long-term strategies and objectives.
Dr Maria Sultan, Director General SASSI, in her remarks stated that the Pakistan will welcome the cooperation in the bio-safety and security field, however, it requires more broad-based understanding of global concerns and Pakistan’s requirements in this field. Highlighting issues of importance from the Pakistani side she said there is a need to develop a national framework which would encompass the entire scale of pathogens as well as possible gaps in the bio-safety and security area and development of a community of bio-safety in Pakistan for more societal awareness about the issue as well as to include all stakeholders especially the factors which are linked to the bio-economy in Pakistan. She said that the emphasis of cooperation should balance between research and development (R &D) sector in high-tech bio-sciences and bio-safety aspects for disease eradication and epidemic eradication programmes and capacity building in surveillance and equipment for the bio-security and safety mechanism in the country and the international collaborative programmes. She said Pakistani bio-engagement programmes if they are to be run have to rest on the policy of transparency and sustainability aimed at developing bio-economy in Pakistan and the region. Subsequent sanctions on its bio-technology sector could in the future retard or restrict the Pakistan’s capacity to fully utilise its immense potential. The international community should take this matter in account as well, she said.
A multilateral forum and the support of EU for developing a sustained engagement is a step in the right direction but it would require careful deliberation and long-term policy objectives, which are shared by the two parties, she said.
She further stated that Pakistan had reservations with regards to linking the cooperation in the bio-safety with the cooperative threat reduction programme (CTR) of the former Soviet Union, as the frame of reference was not acceptable as Pakistan did not work on a bio-weapons programme. Hence, the cooperative engagement could only be possible if there was an independent framework of engagement with Pakistan and was focused on developing bio-economy. She said Pakistan will join any international cooperative framework by taking into consideration its security and scientific needs. In the end, she elaborated that there is need to shift the emphasis of cooperation from a security culture only to a more safety and R&D sector development.
The bio-economy in Pakistan for a collaborative and utilizing a framework for international bio-safety and security programme was perhaps the best way forward. In the end, Dr Maria thanked Prof. Maurizio Martellini for his visit to the institute and his time for the discussion on the subject matter.

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