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NIH Record

NIH Coordinates Egyptian Biotechnology,
Technology Transfer Workshop

By Charles Gardner

The Fogarty International Center recently convened a workshop on "Investing in Biotechnology" in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss public-private partnerships and technology transfer, and to stimulate joint ventures. The workshop focused on drug development, diagnostics, bioremediation, agriculture and industrial synthesis.

American participants included representatives from 18 private biotechnology companies, FIC and a number of NIH institutes, as well as the HHS Office of International Health, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of State. A substantial number of the U.S. companies were recipients of NIH grants, contracts, or Small Business Innovation Research awards. Egyptian participants included nearly 200 investors, company representatives, and researchers from universities and government laboratories.

During break-out sessions, participants held one-on-one meetings to discuss possible joint ventures. Here, Andy Firstenberg (r), CEO of Firstenberg Machinery, a supplier of used biotechnology equipment, meets with a potential Egyptian distributor.

Hoechst Marion Roussel Pharmaceuticals, Promega Corp., Battelle, and Phyton Inc. all reported solid business prospects as a result of their discussions with Egyptian counterparts, while other American companies announced agreements during the workshop.

Dr. Claire Driscoll, NIAID senior technology transfer officer, and Wayne Swann, director of technology transfer at the University of Maryland, described how their offices identify new laboratory inventions and then market them to the private sector -- literally translating between these two very different cultures. Based on these presentations, and using the U.S. model for public-private partnerships, several Egyptian universities and government laboratories are now seeking to establish their own offices of technology transfer.

The workshop received high level political attention from both sides. Opening remarks were made by the U.S. Embassy's deputy chief of mission Dr. Vincent Battle, Egypt's minister for higher education and scientific research Dr. Moufid Shehab, and the president of the Investment Authority of Egypt Dr. Ibrahim Fawzy. The workshop closed with remarks from Minister of Agriculture Dr. Youssaf Wali, who reiterated his country's focus on biotechnology.

The enthusiasm of the participants suggests the workshop may have long-term payoffs in terms of development of new tools to address pressing health and agricultural needs, spurring economic growth, and strengthening political ties.

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