Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) recently hosted and coordinated the second Industry Academia Alliance Conference to discuss strategies for bringing innovations in biomedical research to the market and help diversify Qatar’s economy. 

The conference brought together leading research academics, local stakeholders and senior executives from small and large biotech firms for two days of presentations, discussions and networking.

The aim of the conference is to stimulate collaborative alliances between industry and the academe in order to facilitate the journey of new technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace, explained Dr Khaled Machaca, Associate Dean of Medical Research at WCM-Q.

We are interested in building bridges between industry and academia. Our aim is to support the growth of an innovation eco-system in Qatar that promotes the translation of good research into clinical practice, which can then attract investment from industry and venture capital. Ultimately, the aim is to create an environment that allows new ideas to become successful commercial ventures that are based here in Qatar, establishing new revenue streams for the Qatari economy and closing the ‘research loop’.

The event featured presentations from leading figures in the international biotech industry, including Dr Robert R Ruffolo Jr, retired president of Research and Development for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Corporate Senior Vice President of Wyeth (now Pfizer). Dr Ruffolo also managed an R&D organisation of 9,000 scientists with a budget of US$4 billion.

Other speakers include Dr Thomas Caskey, Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas; Dr Ronald Crystal, Chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York; and Dr Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q.

Dr Sheikh said that Qatar has been tremendously supportive of biotech R&D, both in terms of establishing world-class research institutions and in developing human capital through education.

Our goal now is to aid diversification of the economy by attracting ‘seasoned capital’ from local and international venture capital investors who have an appetite for taking calculated risks on biotech innovations that could deliver very significant rewards, both for them and for the economy in Qatar.’

The WCM-Q Research Division has 25 active laboratories and has established a centre of excellence in basic, translational and clinical biomedical research, with special focus on the most pressing health challenges facing Qatar. Since 2010, WCM-Q faculty have published over 800 papers with an associated 16,000 citations. The Research Division also runs a series of programmes offering research training to young people in Qatar.

The conference was coordinated by WCM-Q in collaboration with Qatar Foundation, Hamad Medical Corporation, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar Biobank, Qatar Genome, Sidra Medicine and Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP). QSTP, a Qatar Foundation member, encourages growth and investment in Qatar’s hi-tech sector through its Free Zone, which allows for 100% foreign ownership, tariff-free imports and other tax incentives.

For more information about WCM-Q, visit their website at qatar-weill.cornell.edu.