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Abu Dhabi puts together global life sciences contender

The UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular are investing heavily in life sciences and longevity Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko
The UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular are investing heavily in life sciences and longevity
  • Three companies united in umbrella entity
  • Arcera to sell 2,000 branded medicines
  • Sales and distribution in 90 countries

A new company to help establish Abu Dhabi as a major global player in life sciences has been announced by the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund ADQ.

The new concern, called Arcera, will act as an umbrella entity for ADQ’s shareholdings in the Swiss pharmaceutical company Acino, Birgi Mefar Group of Turkey and Egypt’s Amoun.

Arcera will have a workforce of more than 6,500 people and sales and distribution in 90 countries. It will sell 2,000 branded medicines across a wide range of therapeutic areas. 



The company’s manufacturing and packaging base encompasses seven sites in the UAE, Switzerland, Ukraine, Estonia, South Africa, Turkey and Egypt.

Its launch is part of plans to realise Abu Dhabi’s 2030 Healthcare Life Sciences Vision and bolster the UAE’s aspiration to emerge as a frontrunner in science and technology.

ADQ said that Arcera is planning to double its revenue over the next five years through acquisitions and partnerships in key markets.

The longevity sector is estimated to be worth $26 trillion. The analytics company Deep Knowledge Group predicts it will reach $33 trillion by 2026. 

In a study last year by Ageing Analytics Agency, part of Deep Knowledge, the longevity industry in the UAE alone was projected to grow by 8.5 percent annually to $32 billion by 2026.

Isabel Afonso, CEO of Arcera, said: “The growing need for high-quality and effective medicines lends tremendous importance to building a global life sciences company like Arcera.”

In the Middle East, the UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular are investing in health technologies that can predict medical risk and help develop medicines. 

They are putting money into healthtech, building laboratories to support research and development in diagnostics and preventative drugs, and inviting companies and institutions to set up operations in the Gulf.  

Crossing the fields of biotech, pharmaceuticals, fintech, AI and robotics, the longevity sector is about using technology to tackle the so-called diseases of ageing. These ailments – cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s – have replaced infectious diseases as humanity’s leading causes of death. 

Last year Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, PIF, launched Lifera, a pharmaceutical investment company that will make products including insulins, vaccines and plasma therapeutics. 

Abu Dhabi’s Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technology Council announced last month the creation of MGX, a technology investment company that has life sciences as one of its focus sectors. The sovereign wealth fund Mubadala and technology group G42 are foundational partners.

In February the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi signed an agreement with GSK, a global biopharma company. Officials said the partnership has “immense potential” to revolutionise the life sciences landscape globally. 

Lina Shadid, health industries leader and a partner at PwC Middle East, said Gulf countries are reacting to demographic changes which pose a potential burden on healthcare systems.

Writing for AGBI, she said by 2025 people over the age of 50 are expected to make up almost one in five of the GCC population, up from one in seven in 2020.

“The private sector in the Gulf must come forward to promote public-private partnerships and support healthy ageing and longevity-related initiatives, policies, and research in the region,” she said.

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