Julphar is now trialling production of insulin in a first-of-a-kind facility in the region, as the pharmaceutical manufacturer targets the Dh5.56 billion (US$1.51bn) medical sales market in the UAE.
Its Dh550 million facility in Ras Al Khaimah, where Julphar is based, is completing trials on insulin before launching commercial production during the second quarter this year.
The company says it aims to produce more than 40 million vials of insulin annually, making it the fifth-largest insulin producer in the world and the only one in the Middle East.
"Recently we entered the diabetes business because there is huge demand," said Ayman Sahli, the chief executive of Julphar.
"This plant is big enough to produce 1,500 kilograms of insulin [crystals] per year. This is beyond the need of the Emirates and GCC region," Mr Sahli said.
While this is now Julphar's 11th facility in the UAE, and specifically RAK, most of the company's products are exported to the more than 45 countries.
Last year, revenue at Julphar topped Dh1bn, up 11.3 per cent over 2010, and the company forecasts 16 per cent growth this year.
Sales in the Emirates, however, account for only about 10 per cent of Julphar's overall revenue, as residents here tend to prefer branded medicines from the United States and Europe, said Daniel Rosen, an analyst with Business Monitor International and the head of the market research firm's pharmaceuticals and healthcare coverage for the Middle East and Africa (Mea).
Yet Mr Rosen noted that Julphar was poised to expand its share of the pharmaceuticals market in Mea because local production would help to reduce local prices of insulin and other generic products for which the company is better known.
"Knowledge of the local market and the ability to market generic drugs directly to patients are also potential benefits, but primarily this is about cost," said Mr Rosen.
"Furthermore, the company should also be able to use its pharmacies to address the problem of regional preferences for foreign-made patented pharmaceuticals by encouraging customers to try generic drug alternatives," he said.
At the same time, Julphar is going through the approvals process to sell its insulin in certain countries in Europe, including Britain and Germany. "The most important thing is we'll produce insulin beyond the needs of the region," Mr Sahli said.
"It's important to have, in this region, quality [insulin] that's going to be accepted in Europe," he said.
Julphar's expansion plans also include establishing production facilities abroad for the first time.
Construction of a $40m plant in Saudi Arabia, which will make about 50 different products, is about to begin, while engineers are finalising plans for a facility in Algeria.
"Julphar sees its main growth coming from outside of the UAE," Mr Rosen said.