Acino, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Switzerland, has ambitious plans to grow locally and through exports out of its manufacturing facility in Dubai Science Park.

“Acino has been focused on emerging markets and the Middle East. We have active plans for the GCC markets and beyond,” Mansoor Meenai, Interim Head of Region, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Acino, said.

Established in 1836 near Basel, Switzerland, Acino was acquired by the Abu Dhabi investment and holding company ADQ in 2022. Last year, the operations of another local pharmaceutical manufacturer, Pharmax, were integrated into Acino. “We leveraged the European and global expertise in manufacturing with the local knowledge and investment to see how we can build up this site to reach more scale and benefit from the overall portfolio and the geographic reach, not only in the UAE but also potential export opportunities,” Meenai said.

The UAE had long been a net importer of medicines. UAE Federal Customs Authority data showed pharmaceutical imports for 2020 to be $8.2 billion while CEIC figures showed the country’s pharmaceutical exports were still only $542 million in 2022. This deficit could only be addressed through strong private-sector action, experts say.

Acino established its 1,300-sqm manufacturing site, ramping up annual production capacity to over 250 million tablets and 87 million capsules.

“We have invested in localisation, in trying to bring products of value being manufactured closer to where the customer is. This is a strategy we pursue across the Middle East, as the UAE, being a central part of the region, aligns with our approach of manufacturing products locally,” Meenai said.

The company remains open to the possibilities of expanding its facility in Dubai. “We review our capacity utilization all the time in line with what our commercial volumes are and with the deals that we are drawing up with potential partners. We are not only manufacturing Acino products here, but products originated by other companies in our B2B business. There are always opportunities to expand further,” Meenai said.

Saudi Arabia remains a key component of Acino’s expansion plans. “Saudi Arabia presents a major opportunity and we are also looking at strengthening our presence in the country” Meenai said.

Acino’s Dubai plant is an EU-GMP, SFA and GCC-certified manufacturing site, stamps of approval that are expected to engender renewed trust in the regional pharmaceutical supply chain. The plant is expected to support industry growth alongside the improvement of service access for patients, enhanced quality of care, and more favorable treatment outcomes.

One of the opportunities that Acino has been looking at is the sustainability of the business. “We need to make sure that we have this continuous sustainability in terms of volume increases in manufacturing that is critical to a site here. So we really have to build export channels. The challenge is how can we stay sustainable and viable while we are going through the regulatory processes to build our export potential,” Meenai said.

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