Qatar’s strategy for developing its healthcare sector in Qatar includes a commitment to improve the quality and standard of ‘life’ by promoting education and reform in Life Sciences.
- In promoting research in Life Sciences, there are a number of existing key players including the following:
- Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) is a private, chartered, nonprofit organization that has, amongst other things, identified research of the Life Sciences as a catalyst for expanding and diversifying Qatar’s economy, enhancing the education of its citizens and increasing the quality of healthcare, wellbeing, and security of its citizens.
- In 2006, QF established the Qatar National Research Fund, as part of it’s ongoing commitment to establish Qatar as a knowledge-based economy, fostering research in, amongst other things, Life Sciences.
- Sidra Medical and Research Center is a teaching and research centre that has commenced partial operation this year, and has recently appointed Qatar’s Minister of Public Health, Dr. Hanan Al-Kuwari, to the board of governors for Sidra as a sign of confidence in Sidra and its strategy.
- World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) is a global initiative of QF with a mandate to inspire healthcare innovation and promote best practices.
In 2015, Hamad bin Khalifa University launched three new postgraduate programs within its College of Science and Engineering to promote education in Life Sciences, namely a masters and PhD program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Sustainable Energy, and Sustainable Environment.
Qatar is developing an environment that allows private investment in Life Sciences, as follows:
- The Foreign Investment Law allows for foreigners to apply for an exemption to the requirement that foreigners own no more than forty nine percent of a limited liability company if the foreigner can demonstrate that the activities it will carry out in Qatar are unique and for the public benefit of Qatar. This exemption is only applicable to certain sectors including the healthcare sector.
- Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is a special free zone which is also a centre of research and commercial excellence for scientific development and regionally produced intellectual property for both Qatari and international partners. The QSTP promotes the research and commercialisation of technology projects and training. QSTP licensed entities are not subject to Qatar tax.
- Qatar Financial Centre, whilst not traditionally a place for healthcare providers to carry out business in Qatar, has made a strategic decision to diversify from licensing only financial institutions to also license entities involved in other sectors such as healthcare, education and sports. While a company cannot trade in the QFC (ie. sell tangible products) it can set up in the QFC as an unregulated entity to provide advisory and consultancy services. The entities registered within the QFC may operate and trade without a local sponsor or service agent (i.e. 100% non-Qatari ownership is permitted) and are governed by the QFC rules and regulations, including tax and employment regulations.
- Research in Life Sciences is undergoing tremendous change thanks to advances in high throughput analysis, biomedical engineering, stem cells and gene therapy breakthroughs. The hallmark of the new global research model is collaboration – scientists forming partnerships based on research interests, rather than physical locations. It is a model well-suited to the State of Qatar, which is physically small, but large in talent, ambition, and resources.
The need for life sciences research is great. The last few decades have witnessed a rapid increase in the prevalence of chronic and severe diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. These diseases, which have devastating health and economic consequences, pose a serious threat to public health in Qatar and throughout the Middle East. The situation calls for urgent preventive and early detection strategies as well as effective therapies.
The Ministry of Public Health has recently confirmed that a new five-year plan will be launched after completion of the current National Health Strategy 2011- 2016 demonstrating the Qatari government’s continued focus on achieving its National Vison 2030, and in particular the healthcare sector as a means not only to provide better care and resources to its citizens, but to also diversify its mainly oil dependent economy.