Interview: Abdelaziz Ziari
How developed is the local biotech sector?
ABDELAZIZ ZIARI: Biotechnology is still in its infancy in Algeria. While certain basic research projects are under way at the Pasteur Institute in Algeria and a few university hospitals, they are almost exclusively academic and not followed by a real valuation. In addition, in most cases no industrial applications have been made due to the lack of partnership with the manufacturing sector.
However, the database of scientists working in various areas shows that the country has the potential to develop the sector. Academic research on the subject involves 26,519 researchers, 2700 of who are permanent. We have 23,819 professors working in 1200 laboratories, eight research units and 20 research centres, including the National Centre of Biotechnology of Constantine.
These figures indicate clearly that the development of industrial applications stemming from biotechnology is possible in Algeria. Several clusters need to be created that will positively enhance the sector and involve all partners (including researchers, financiers and industrialists), ensuring the sustainability of research development.
Within this framework, Algeria is committed with 12 of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical groups – all members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America – to establish a centre of excellence by 2020 for the development and production of medicines stemming from biotechnology. The strong political commitment of the Algerian authorities and the constant interest shown by our US partners guarantee the success of this project. In addition, the necessary adaptation of our legal framework to suit the development of health research has been started.
To what extent is Algeria collaborating with France in the fight against cancer?
ZIARI: Most Algerian medical teams in charge of cancer treatment collaborate with their French counterparts. This work is done either in the framework of pairing hospital services or via the exchange of experts in training courses. Early in 2012 the French minister of health visited Algeria, showing promising prospects of cooperation, including further support for the finalisation and subsequent implementation of our plan to battle cancer. In terms of sharing expertise, this partnership will be important as France is well recognised as a leader in this specialised area.
How can the transfer of patients abroad be reduced?
ZIARI: The number of foreign transfers for health care purposes is decreasing due to the development of high-level care over the last decade. The scope of care has been widened thanks to the modernisation of technical equipment, the increase in specialised services and the opening of specialised facilities, in such areas as cancer and cardiac surgery.
The creation of the National Organ Transplant Agency in 2012 will aid the diversification of health care supply. This organisation will allow for the development of organ, tissue and cell transplants from cadaveric donors, while continuing transplants coming from living donors. Still, much work remains to be accomplished; this includes better organisation and management of databases of transplant applicants, the establishment of a system of communication and distribution that is dedicated to transplant activity, the establishment of organ banks, and the growth of specialised medical and paramedical training.
The integrated development of high-quality care requires medical and paramedical in-service training adapted to the new environment and methods of hospital management. That is why we created the Graduate School of Management and Administration in Health to train specialist doctors.
Generally speaking, we can say that the current process of strengthening skills thanks to foreign partnerships, expertise exchange, the development of specialised centres and the financial support planned by the state will allow the reduction of transfers abroad.
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