With the opening this summer of Arwan Pharmaceutical Industries’ $40 million plant in Jadra, CEO Abdul-Razzaq Yousef is betting that his company’s production will be a game-changer in the region by supplying intensive-care medications that have been made in Lebanon.
He noted that there are more than 300 pharmaceutical companies in the MENA region, but collectively they produce only 56 percent of the medical needs for the Arab world.
“Major deficits are in critical care and biotechnology products, where importation imposes financial and sometimes political burdens,” Arwan’s CEO said.
“Arwan will be one of the foundation stones upon which the pharmaceutical industry in the Arab world could be heading toward self-realization.”
After several years of getting approvals to build the plant, Arwan recently started production. The firm estimates gross sales of around $45 million for the 18 months ending 2013; and with plans for a marked ramp-up in production, estimates for the following year period, ending 2014, are for sales of $180 million.
The high-tech plant and equipment are worth nearly $40 million, raised by Yousef’s own funds, private investors with shares in the firm and bank loans.
The global pharmaceutical industry is expected to be worth more than $1 trillion in 2014, according to research from pharmaceutical news information company Urch Publishing.
The Arwan facility, built over an area of 17,000 square meters, is literally a “transparent” plant, starting from the outside to the inside.
This is a key component of the company’s marketing, “because we want customers [health care providers, and pharmacies] to actually see the production facility, face to face,” the CEO told The Daily Star.
As an experienced pharma businessman, Yousef says he wants the entire production process available to the public eye – “this is in order to foster trust.”
Indeed, for those taking a tour of the capacious facility, every part of production is on view – from the triple-filtered HVAC system, to the clean rooms and disposable tanks that are used only once to ensure that each tank is spotless.
The goal in all pharma production – no matter where in the world – is to supply a product untainted by pollutants, pollen or bacteria from the outside world, Yousef said.
The Arwan facility is state of the art in the MENA region for its systems that ensure purity of product, including the technique of swapping in new sterile tanks for each production run of a biological compound. Also, each filled container of a given product is assigned a unique data matrix for traceability and to prevent any fraud or counterfeit, the CEO noted.
“Our marketing depends on our reputation – if you build quality into every aspect of production, it prevents human error,” Yousef said, “We believe our doctors, who are our clients, or for that fact, any doctor, looks first to their patient, and their patient’s health, that is their main concern.”
He noted that Arwan’s key clients – physicians and hospitals in the MENA region – “base their decision on quality.” This, he said, is the standard that Arwan intends to meet, and indeed must meet, in production and sales to make a competitive mark.
Yousef, a longtime engineering expert in the pharmaceutical world, said, “this is intended to be quality by [engineering] design,” referring the large Arwan plant.
The company specializes in pharmaceuticals for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the nervous, immune, musculoskeletal, metabolic and genitourinary systems; for cardiovascular, respiratory, inflammatory and gastroenterological disorders; for use in dermatology, oncology, hematology and in tissue and organ transplantation.
Yousef said that Arwan will also seek to narrow the gap between budgets and the availability of quality medicines in hospitals and governmental institutions, as well as help in limiting the political obligations of governments by securing strategic medicines.
Arwan intends to invest in ideas originating from regional health care professionals and scientists; create job opportunities for the educated youth; encourage research and clinical studies; customize strategies and operations to address local needs; and finally to empower their Lebanese products and pave the way for biomedicine to reach more destinations.
“Having a record of 23 years of achievements in establishing and leading Julphar (Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries) until it became a giant in the region, and after leaving Julphar in 2008, I thought of investing the richness of my experience and know-how in an ideal facility,” Yousef said.
“One that will host the delicate and sophisticated manufacturing of biotechnology and critical care products, a rather rare industry in our area.”
In selecting the location to build Arwan, Yousef noted, the following basic criteria had to be checked off: strategic location in the MENA region, with minimal visa and residency complications; presence of high-caliber personnel to work for such an industry; high standards of medical professionalism to utilize and empower such products; and a Free Trade Zone country to allow for the export of pharmaceutical products.
“It was in Lebanon that I found what I was looking for, and in addition to this, I was blessed by the charming nature and weather where I would love to live,” said Yousef. “Lebanon is the country with all the perquisites for my dream to come true.”
Yousef, an Emirati, came from a modest background. He speaks proudly of his father, an auto mechanic, who died when Yousef was young.
After finishing his initial studies in the United Arab Emirates, Yousef continued his studies in the United States on a scholarship.
For English-language studies, Yousef went first to the state university in Lawrence, Kansas. Thus his first introduction to the United States was of its vast farm country and the bread basket of America.
Next stop was the more urbanized city of Miami, Florida, where he received a degree in engineering from the University of Miami.
Graduating in 1980, Yousef returned to the Middle East, where he began successfully climbing the career ladder with his focus on engineering and design of pharma manufacture.
Asked about his company name, Yousef smiles, and says with bold emphasis – “Arwan: Assure reliability when absolutely necessary!”
The Daily Star