Status and prospects of biotechnology in the Middle East and North Africa


6 Δεκ 2012 (πριν από 5 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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Status and prospects of biotechnology in
the Middle East and North Africa

First Jordanian Swedish Biotechnology

27 March 2007

Dr. Amjad Khalil

Associate Professor of Biotechnology

Biotechnology Research Group

College of Science





What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology applies
scientific and engineering
principles to living organisms

in order to produce
products and services of value to society.

Biotechnology has been identified
as one of the
frontline technologies today

being developed and used
to understand and manipulate biological molecules for
applications in medical, agricultural, industrial and
environmental sectors of the national economy.


Biotechnology is not new.

Examples of the ‘old’ technologies

(such as in the
production of beer from malt) and

and breeding.


However, there is a
new biotechnology

which has emerged in the last 25 years
and which has been built on new
knowledge of DNA structure and

In particular, it has allowed geneticists to
move genetic material

from one life form
to another in a way that was not
previously possible.

Importance of Biotechnology

Biotechnology is expected to be the
engine of global economy

during the
21st century.

The growing biotechnology industry and
its sectors considered the new directions
term economic growth.

Importance of Biotechnology


Rabid advances in
genome science

opening up a multitude of new business
opportunities in the life science


To accompany this growth,
appropriately trained and educated in
biotechnology is certainly needed.

Recent advances in biotechnology provide good
opportunities for immediate benefits to developing

The innovations made in biotechnology applications
include :


the development of micro
propagation systems for many
plant species and of new plant varieties with highly
desirable characteristics.


the manipulation of genetic material and its cloning into
other organisms.


the production of genetically engineered plants that are
resistant to viruses, insects and herbicides.


fermentation technology producing many
human and animal health products, as well
as food and feed ingredients.


treatment and utilization of liquid and
solid wastes. These developments could
have wide applications in agricultural
production and environmental protection.

Most countries in the Middle East and North Africa are characterized by
severe weather conditions, lack of fresh water and widespread soil

As a result, viable agriculture to produce food of both plant and animal
origin is strictly limited and is below consumption levels.

Since the population is expected to double in the next two decades, the
countries in this region face a food supply problem of some magnitude.

They already suffer from a low standard of living, inferior quality of
food, poor health and weak economies.

This clearly indicates the need of these countries to gain access to the
new advances and products of biotechnology.

In order to achieve this goal, a long
program should be established for the
generation, transfer and development of
biotechnology to the Middle Eastern countries.

Major components of this program will be


the development of trained personnel,


the strengthening of research and
technology transfer facilities


the establishment of international and
regional collaboration in the field of

This PRESENTATION analyses the major
trends of biotechnology in the region as a
whole as well as in individual selected
countries; then examines the prospects of
strengthening biotechnology in conjunction
with conventional technologies; and finally, it
outlines the strategies for the promotion of
biotechnology in the region.

Major trends and prospects of
biotechnology applications

The main challenges facing the Middle Eastern countries
are related to food supply and conservation of resources.
Using biotechnological approaches, different resources can
be utilized by:


increasing soil fertility through biological activities;


increasing food production through genetic manipulation
and plant cell culture


biological waste water treatment;


bioconversion of waste for food and feed ingredients.

Most biotechnological activities present in these countries
are limited to traditional methods to serve their needs, i.e.
industrial fermentation, soil microbiology and bioconversion
of waste.

There are various sources of raw materials for fermentation
in the Middle Eastern countries.


Huge quantities of hydrocarbons and methanol are
found in oil
producing countries,


carbohydrate by
products (molasses) and lignocellulose
waste (cardboard, paper) are found in most countries.


Agricultural and forest residues generated in some
countries (Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq and the Syrian
Arab Republic) are considered renewable resources that
can be utilized by biotechnological means for the
production of food, feed, fertilizers and fuel.

The majority of these countries have established

traditional fermentation industries, i.e. (the
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman,
Kuwait, the Syrian Arab Republic and Egypt);


baker's yeast production (The Syrian Arab
Republic, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt);


methanol and acetic acid production (Iraq, the
Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon and Egypt); and

acetone, butanol and citric acid (Egypt).


Fermented dairy products' plants have been
established in all countries.


Most of these countries have established
biological treatment plants for sanitary waste
water and have utilized the treated waste
water for landscaping and agriculture.
However, there is still a need for more
research and development to adapt and
optimize treatment technologies, to upgrade
the quality of treated effluent and for proper
management of sewage sludge.

In 1982, the production of dates in the Near Eastern and North African
countries accounted for about 73 percent of total world date production
(1.9 million tonnes). Iraq and Saudi Arabia were the leading producers,
followed by Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and the Sudan.

The date
palm produces, in its long lifetime, relatively few offshoots
which are suitable for transplanting. Vegetative micropropagation
through tissue culture is therefore a promising technique for multiplying
elite, high
yielding and disease
resistant trees. The results obtained in
Saudi Arabia as well as in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have shown
that in vitro micropropagation can be very successful. However, future
research is needed to overcome the difficulties related to early
flowering and lack of uniformity of the cloned plants.

It is particularly important to create date
clones resistant to the disease caused by
Fusarium wilt, which is threatening the palm
groves in Morocco. In the date
producing Arab
countries, high
quality dates are still imported
even though domestic production exceeds
consumption. In these countries, the application of
tissue culture techniques to improve date
varieties, coupled with progressing, packaging and
marketing efforts, would lead to major changes in
their capacity to export high
quality dates.

As regards plant production, most countries that responded
to the questionnaire adopted tissue culture techniques to
improve plant production, in addition to conventional
methods of plant breeding. These countries are
cooperating with international organizations for the
adoption of advanced plant biotechnological techniques .

Some activities related to animal health were reported from
Egypt and the Sudan. The Animal Health Production
Institute (AHRT) and the Veterinary Serums and Vaccine
Research Institute in Egypt were cooperating with FAO and
international institutes in Finland and the United States in
combatting brucellosis and other animal diseases.


Successive governments have had to search for means to increase
food production and reverse the downward economic trend.

The government intends to develop self
sufficiency in cereals.

Algeria depends on imports of durum wheat. This dependence on
cereal imports is reflected by the focus of several biotechnology
projects which have been implemented under government auspices.
Both the National Institute for Agricultural Research and the
Department of Plant

Currently, these institutions also use various biotechnology approaches
to look for alternative sources of protein, such as potato and chickpea.

The Department of Animal Production focuses on the protein content of
straw for livestock feed.

Basic biotechnology research is mainly carried out
at the Houari Boumedienne University of Science.

The relationship between universities and
commercial breeding companies is still in a state
of evolution, the only successful undertaking so far
has been a program for potato micropro
supervised since 1989 by the Institute for the
Development of Vegetable Crops.

In 1988, plans for future biotechnology research
were formulated by the High Commission for

Five priority areas were identified:


Food industries. Production of single
cell protein, Spirulina,
enzymes and solid
state fermentations.


Increase and improvement of agricultural production.


Production of pharmaceuticals. For the extraction of
biologically active plant substances.


Immunology. Production of vaccines and monoclonal


Use and recycling of agricultural and industrial wastes and
products. For the production of ethanol, acetone butanol
and methane.


In Egypt, biotechnology activities were initiated in the early 1950s..

The government showed its interest in providing support to
biotechnology by offering to host one of the principal laboratories of the
International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

this culminated in the agreement that Egypt would establish an
affiliated ICGEB biotechnology centre with the Academy of Scientific
Research Technology (ASRT) as the principal liaison institute.

The academy established a national biotechnology committee in 1984;
since then, research in plant biotechnology has been carried out in
different institutions.

The Cell Research Section of the Agriculture Research Centre (ARC)
in Cairo became the Biotechnology Centre of the Ministry of
Agriculture. In 1990, the Ministry of Agriculture decided to create a

National Agricultural Genetic Engineering
Laboratory (NAGEL).

The main research objective of NAGEL is to apply
genetic engineering and tissue culture for transfer
of desirable traits such as tolerance to salt and
drought and pest resistance in the major crops.


Tissue culture is used for micropropagation of
strawberries, potatoes, bananas, and date

At the National Research Centre (NRC), a Division of Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology was established with the following departments:

Molecular biology
: for enzyme production for industrial and clinical diagnosis.

Cell biology
: for animal cytogenetics (chromosome and gene mapping);
biotechnological methods for embryo technology (embryo culture, transfer,
sexing, splitting pre
implantation, embryo freezing and twinning).

Plant cell and tissue culture
: for plant tissue culture to produce secondary
metabolites; the selection of plant cell lines for stress tolerance e.g. to salinity
and drought; the production of virus
free potato planting material; and the
micropropagation of plants with difficulties for conventional propagation.

Microbial biotechno1ogy
: for ethanol production from sugar by
products and
methane production from agro
industrial wastes.

Microbial genetics
: for the production of useful microbial compounds through
genetically improved strains such as saponin production in Poinciana regia to
Azotobacter; elimination or degradation of pollutants; transformation of
cellulolytic nitrogen fixers; construction of Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains
capable of cellulose, cellobiose or lactose consumption.

sterility in indica x japonica crosses, fixing inherited traits such as
protein content and starch characteristics and generating variability.

Research on the use of the biofertilizers to increase rice yields in Egypt
has demonstrated the beneficial effects of the blue
green algae,
Cyanobacteria, for rice growth and yield increase. Algal
supplementation has been found to reduce the need for inorganic
nitrogen by 30 to 50 percent, and to maintain soil fertility and gradually
improve the content of soil organic matter. Another major advantage of
this biofertilizer is the ease with which it can be produced, stored and
distributed. The Ministry of Agriculture has set up a programme for the
production of sufficient Cyanobacteria inoculum, to cover an area of
about one million feddans (400 000 ha).

Need for Biotechnologists in the

Despite the urgent needs for biotechnologists
as professional manpower,
none of the
academic institutes

in the kingdom of Saudi
Arabia offers any program of biotechnology.

One of the main objectives of the suggested
program is to
supply the market of the

and the region with well
professional biotechnologists.

Need for Biotechnologists in the

KFUPM could become
the first university

in the
Kingdom and the gulf region to successfully
graduate biotechnologists with strong
background in different disciplines of

In the near future

,hospitals, pharmaceutical
industry, and research institutes will need a
well trained biotechnology professionals.

Need for Biotechnologists in the

In the last few years, the gulf region lunched two projects on
First, Jeddah BioCity

as an international
pioneering company in the transference of biotechnology via the
creation of projects in research and development to produce a
high economic return.

Dubai Biotechnology Park (DuBiotech)

is designed to be
the center of excellence in biotechnology that will link
government, academia and industry through national and
international collaboration to develop new technologies and
products to address regional health and environmental issues.

The presence of these biotechnology centers in the gulf region
will increase the demand for well trained and professional
biotechnologists in the near future.

Why at KFUPM?

KFUPM has established a
very strong and
reputable sciences and engineering

Thus it could play a very important role in
preparing students with strong science
background in the field of Biotechnology.

KFUPM will be the
first university

in the area
that has taken the lead in proposing to design
such a program, which could serve the
community and the students by transferring
the new technology to Saudi universities and


Taking a strategic decision by KFUPM to go for Biotechnology
program will be an
excellent point in its history.

The opportunity exists for KFUPM to position itself as an
important contributor to the advancement and evolution of
biotechnology in this century.

The Biotechnology team believes that KFUPM can become known
as a
major national key player

in the area of biotechnology.

university support for this strategic initiative

is an
opportunity to build excellence in an area affecting all forms of

To achieve success in the area of
biotechnology KFUPM should do the

Formation of Biotechnology steering
committee .

Build human resources in the area of

Develop scientific and technological

Linkages between academic institutions and

Successful Examples from the rest of the

There are a variety of lessons that KFUPM can
learn from the organization and management
of biotechnology in other countries,
particularly developing countries such as
Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand and China,
which have made significant strides in the
development and commercialization of
biotechnology over the past two decades.


Brazil is emerging as one of the
developing country leaders in
biotechnology .

Excellent achievement in
citrus crop
diseases and cancer .

Development of vaccines

for diseases
such as tuberculosis, and hepatitis B


Nigeria is one of the African countries that has
embarked on a determined program to exploit
biotechnology for the benefit of its peoples and
ensure that Nigeria becomes a key participant in the
international biotechnology arena within the next

The Federal Government provided the National
Biotechnology Development Agency with
US $263
million per annum for three years

as a take
off grant

fund the executive programs in agriculture, health,
industry, environment and human resource



Cuba is a developing country that has made significant strides

in biotechnology.


35 national research institutes

dedicated to health



25 agricultural centers

apply biotechnology approaches.


Produces the
world’s only successful anti

vaccine, which is patented worldwide


Cuba has invested more than
US $1000 million

in its

biotechnology research centers alone.


USA has the largest and most profitable
biotechnology industry, consisting of
more than
1,300 companies
, with
revenues of over $22 billion

and employing
162,000 people

Some of the biotechnology companies

are of the
top 15 Nasdaq




The number of biotechnology companies

The total biotechnology sector generates
annual revenue of roughly R4 billion.

The Australian Government spends roughly
one billion rand a year on biotechnology

research. Most of this money is spent through
the universities.


In the last 10 years, Jordan moved into the area of Biotechnology
and achieved number of good goals such as:


Four universities offer undergraduate

Biotechnology programs,
one graduate program



centers of Biotechnology


Biotechnology center at Jordan University affiliated with Hamdi
Mango Center for Scientific Research.


The Virtual Biotechnology Center directed by The Higher
Council for Science and Technology .


Two Pharmaceutical Companies

work in the area of
Biotechnology for developing Recombinant Drugs.


Jordan developed a
National Biosafety Framework as main
components of Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety.

Conclusions of Part A

To achieve a significant progress in the field of
KFUPM requires a body
(committee) to champion biotechnology

establishing well
funded and staffed agencies
dedicated to biotechnology is essential.

The need to build up a scientific and technological

Investment in biotechnology must be based on an
national goal of generating products

processes and commercializing these on domestic and
international markets.




The KFUPM undergraduate program of
Biotechnology aims at taking
a leading
role in research, innovation, education
and postgraduate training in the

Gulf and
Middle East regions.

The program will support and enhance
technology transfer, industrial
development and community services



The mission of the program will be
high quality education,
research, and community service

in the
area of biotechnology and related fields.

Specific components of this mission are:


To conduct basic and applied research

that expands
knowledge in the area of biotechnology and provides
innovative solutions and differentiating technologies
for the Saudi industries and for the healthcare


To provide high
quality education in biotechnology

and its related sciences, and to prepare professionals
for the ever increasing complexity of the systems in
this field and extend collaborative links both nationally
and internationally.

To provide high
quality professional training and
consultation in the area of biotechnology.

Program Objectives

basic laboratory skills
, perform standard
techniques, and work with the state of the art

To broadly educate students

for positions in the
biotechnology industry and to prepare students for
graduate and professional study in the life science.

Students will be able to
solve problems in biological
sciences using biotechnology approaches

Linking research establishments with economic and
service sectors

by concentrated comprehensive
marketing to facilitate the creation of new highly
skilled work force and jobs that will benefit the Saudi


Benefits to the society

the biotechnology program is beneficial
to the society as a whole because
KFUPM, a leading university in science
and technology,
will contribute to the
scientific training of under graduate
student of this program and provide the
community with well trained graduates

with adequate scientific knowledge and

Benefit to KFUPM

The University will play an important
role in
creating, developing and
advancing research and development in

which benefit the
Kingdom and the region.

Benefit to the Industry and
Economy of KSA

Biotechnology is a goldmine in the developed

KFUPM will help in
linking research establishments
with economic and service sectors

by concentrated
comprehensive marketing to facilitate the creation of
new highly skilled work force and jobs that will
benefit the Saudi industry and economy.

KFUPM biotechnology program will encourage the
government to support the investment in

applications which are expected to
have futuristic concept that blends innovative
research and manufacturing in an economic
container that would contribute to the welfare and
prosperity of KSA society.

Benefit to students

Biotechnology program will help the students to
acquire a
strong foundation in biology, chemistry,
and physics.

This program will put heavy emphasis on
methodology through laboratory experience

provides students with state
biotechnology instruments and skills.

Students will be able to
apply the principles of
biotechnology to solve problems

encountered in
medicine, public health, research and
development, agricultural, industrial and
environmental sciences.

Major Biotechnology Courses

This program should expose the students to number of core courses in
Biotechnology in order to give them the knowledge and the experience to
be an excellent professional Biotechnologists and become qualified to into
the market of the biotechnology positions., such courses include:

General Microbiology

Introduction to Biotechnology

Principle of Genetics


Cell Biology

Molecular Biology

Microbial Biotechnology

Molecular Genetics

Methods in Recombinant DNA Tech

Applied Molecular Biology

Proteomics and Protein Technology

Mammalian tissue culture

Plant Tissue Culture

Ethics in Biotechnology


Career Opportunities

Lab specialist in biotechnology, food, pharmaceutical
, medical and agrotechnology
industries .

Research assistant as part of a larger research team
, conducting experiments in the
laboratory or in the field.

Forensic and medical laboratory specialist
. Examine DNA and other scientific evidence
relating to criminal investigations and analyze DNA from clinical samples from patients
for diagnosis of genetics diseases.

Environmental consultant

by assess and monitor environmental contamination and help
in developing and implementing bioremediation programs to clean up the environment.

Scientific journalist and media presenter
: by writing articles and help in preparing
broadcast programs to communicate the importance of scientific development to the

Sales representative / marketing

professional sell and provide advice about special
scientific products to clients in research, help to solve specific problems related to
equipment applications and experimental procedures.

List of Universities


Drexel University / USA


Whitehead University/MIT


University of Queensland / Australia


North Iowa University / USA


University of Maryland University College/USA


Purdue University Calumet / USA


University College London / England


Indiana University / USA


University of Georgia / USA


Lund University / Sweden


University of Helsinki / Finland


Biotechnology is one of the frontline
technologies today and considered to be the
engine of global economy

during the 21st

Biotechnology solve problems in biological
sciences for the benefits of humanity, provided
high quality education, research, and
community service.

Lessons should be learned from the
experience of other countries , and to start
now is better than 10 or 15 years later.