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G42 Healthcare executive hails new era after Amazon tie-up

Dr Fahed Al Marzooqi, COO of G42 Healthcare G42
Dr Fahed Al Marzooqi, COO of G42 Healthcare. It has already struck a deal with a consumer DNA company in Indonesia
  • Deal with Amazon Web Services creates global opportunities
  • Healthtech company is training and hiring Emirati graduates
  • Abu Dhabi business played a key role in UAE’s Covid response

“We want to reach everywhere at scale and at speed.” Many business leaders might say so, but when Dr Fahed Al Marzooqi, chief operating officer of G42 Healthcare, tells AGBI this, he has good reason.

G42 Healthcare, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based AI firm G42, recently struck a deal with Amazon’s cloud computing arm – Amazon Web Services (AWS) – to make its genome sequencing capabilities available to “governments, population genome programmes and life science initiatives across the world”.

The healthtech company operates the region’s most technologically advanced and largest “omics” facility, which is capable of sequencing over 50,000 genomes each month – the highest capacity in the world.

Now, through the partnership with AWS, G42 Healthcare has set its sights on going global. 

“Joining hands with AWS scales us to a totally different level,” said Al Marzooqi.

“Previously, our outreach capability was mainly focused on the UAE and GCC, but now we are potentially accessible to people around the world. 

“AWS have a large outreach from a global perspective, in terms of their web and storage capabilities services. They have multiple clients engaged with those services, so it made sense for us to choose them as a partner to expand with. 

“Many countries already have agreements and contracts with AWS, so our scalability, reach and the provision of data to those potential clients will be much easier now that we have AWS on board. 

Genetic sequencing and data protection

The partnership will also help G42 Healthcare to reach patients whose country’s data protection laws prohibit them from sending genetic samples abroad for sequencing, because of the risk of the information being stored in that country. 

“The fact that AWS is located in multiple countries worldwide removes that fear as, while your sample may be sequenced here, the data will still be stored in your home country where it can be analysed and care can be provided if needed,” explained Al Marzooqi. 

“Furthermore, with AWS we can now scale our work to other countries that are looking to start a population or clinical genome programme. The reason those countries might approach us is because setting up the building blocks to deliver such medical services is both difficult and costly.”

Al Marzooqi declined to specify which countries or companies G42 Healthcare is talking to, but confirmed that negotiations were ongoing. 

On November 17, G42 Healthcare announced a strategic partnership with Asa Ren, a consumer DNA data company based in Jakarta, aimed at developing and enhancing the genomic sequencing and bioinformatics capability in Indonesia. 

The Indonesian genomic industry is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.4 percent from 2020 to 2027.

Amazon gets into healthcare

For its part, Amazon has been steadily increasing its investments in the healthcare sector. 

In July it announced plans to acquire San Francisco healthcare provider OneMedical for $3.9 billion. It acquired PillPack, a full-service pharmacy, in 2018 for $750 million and it has also set up Amazon Pharmacy, allowing customers to order prescription medicine for home delivery.

Revenue from AWS has been a solid contributor to the company’s growth over recent years. According to its third-quarter 2022 results, AWS net sales grew to $20 billion, from $16 billion for the same period in 2021. Operating profits also increased from $4.8 billion to $5.4 billion.

How did the tie-up with G42 Healthcare come about? According to Al Marzooqi, “what sets us apart from other organisations is the scale of our data offering – almost half a million DNA samples per year is both significant and enticing for an organisation like AWS. 

“That offers huge scope in terms of data storage and data analysis capabilities. So, those two features are a win-win situation for both sides.”   

While G42 Healthcare has set its sights on global expansion, it is committed to ensuring that Emirati nationals remain at its core.  

“The vision of the UAE’s leadership is to grow the capabilities of the country by growing the capabilities of its own people. We aspire to make that a reality,” said Al Marzooqi. 

One of the company’s key performance indicators, he added, “is to nurture and educate the next generation of Emiratis to be able to develop the science so as to serve the country for future generations”. 

Training Emirati graduates and making Covid vaccines

G42 Healthcare established its genome graduate training programme a year ago and to date has trained more than 50 UAE nationals, many of whom have been retained and are now working in the company’s labs. The company plans to increase the participation of Emirati graduates. 

“A lot of mentees are talented UAE nationals who have studied abroad and we can benefit from their knowledge,” said Al Marzooqi.  

“We have several branches of medicine we are focused on and, within each area, we are focusing on training the next generation of UAE nationals in that specialism.” 

Corridor, Indoors, Building
G42 Healthcare’s Abu Dhabi lab

G42 Healthcare also played an instrumental role in the UAE’s coronavirus response. In March 2021, it established Biogenix Labs, the UAE’s first accredited, large-scale, throughput Covid-19 laboratory. 

It joined forces with China’s Sinopharm to arrange the 4Humanity clinical trials, the world’s first Phase 3 clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine, with more than 43,000 volunteers representing over 125 nationalities. 

“We had a leading role at the beginning of the pandemic, and we continue to do so today,” said Al Marzooqi. 

“Our PCR testing lab is still up and running, as is our Covid sample sequencing lab that informs our regulators of the strains of virus we have in the country. 

“Our IROS [Insights Research Organization and Solutions] division is conducting an even greater number of coronavirus clinical trials and helping us to develop new vaccines to provide coverage for the new variants of the virus.

“Our trials are also working to assess the duration of protection that the vaccines can provide to your immune system. The results should be out in the next few months.

“I’m proud to be part of an organisation that leads in science and medical innovation that can positively impact not just individual people, but entire health systems – whether that is within a country, a region or across the globe.

“This is what makes me come to work every day excited about what’s going to happen.”

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