x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE leads region in biotechnology

The UAE is leading the Arab world in biotechnology as researchers in the country look for ways to make the energy sector more sustainable, including the development of biofuels.

Raed Hashaikeh, an assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the Masdar Institute, is creating a new kind of biodegradable polymer that can be used in biotechnology in the form of engineered tissue in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National)
Raed Hashaikeh, an assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the Masdar Institute, is creating a new kind of biodegradable polymer that can be used in biotechnology in the form of engineered tissue in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National)

The UAE is leading the Arab world in biotechnology as researchers in the country look for ways to make the energy sector more sustainable, including the development of biofuels.

This year, for the first time, the UAE was included in the Scientific American Worldview Report and Bio-Innovation Scorecard, a list issued by the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (Bio) of 54 countries demonstrating biotech innovation and potential.

The UAE clinched 40th spot, behind China and just ahead of Russia. The Emirates was also named the top Arabian Gulf state on the list, ahead of Qatar at 42nd, Saudi Arabia at 45th and Kuwait at 53rd.

"The UAE is doing some of the most interesting research right now on some of the hottest topics out there," says Matthew Carr, the managing director for the industrial and environmental sections at Bio.

There are several factors at play - geography, infrastructure, economic benefits and available capital, for example - that are positioning the country as a global sweet spot for biotech innovation.

Some of the UAE's innovative work in industrial biotech echoes the cutting-edge research being presented at this month's World Congress of Industrial Biotechnology, the world's largest industrial biotechnology event for leaders, investors and policymakers in biofuels, biobased products and renewable chemicals.

This year's congress will take place on June 16 through June 19 in Montreal, Canada. The conference will be celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Last year, companies based in the UAE such as Epygen, an enzyme biotechnology company headquartered in Dubai, and researchers at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology focused on producing sustainable jet fuel from plants, took the spotlight at the conference.

Epygen has been working on enhanced oil recovery that involves finding enzymes that can be injected down into oil wells to bring out more oil than normally expected.

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