RESEARCH

Iran 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | B2B

Innovative health solutions in Iran offer investors, researchers, and patients unique opportunities in Iran's health industry.

Nasser Aghdami
NASSER AGHDAMI
Managing Director
Cell Tech Pharmed Company
Dr. Hamid Gourabi
DR. HAMID GOURABI
President
Royan Institute

Are there any interesting entry points for foreign investors looking to come into Iran at the moment?

NASSER AGHDAMI The stem cell business certainly is interesting for investors. Yet, investors are waiting to see what happens in Iran regarding medical regulations first. They want to be sure that our Ministry of Health accepts this technology before they invest in it. There is always a time lag for new medicines and procedures to be approved. Political regulations are also relevant, as we want to export our technology to other countries like Malaysia and South Korea.

DR. HAMID GOURABI We developed a 3D bio printer prototype, and we hope that we can further develop this prototype so that we can use it for regenerative therapies in the treatment of patients. In order to do so, we need investments. Stem cell research has seen strong development in Iran and especially at Royan Institute. In comparison to other countries in Europe and North America, we can do this kind of research for low prices. This could be interesting for foreign investors. Iran has good human resources and excellent scientists who have lots of ideas for doing research. This creates a base for investment opportunities in, for example, stem therapies and regenerative medicines, such as our 3D bio printer. Foreign companies can also collaborate with us in commercializing and distributing our growth-factor products for use in stem cell research.

Iran is trying to become a knowledge-based economy. What is the role of your industry in this development?

NA Today Iran wants to create a name for itself in the field of advanced medicine and this is why we are putting a lot of money into this sector. Some wealthier Iranian patients may prefer to go to the US or Europe to be treated, but the third preference is to stay in Iran for treatment, even if they have the money to go elsewhere. I think if we do our best, Iran will be one of the countries that has something to say in this discipline.

HG The scientific community outside of Iran knows about our successes and the potential of our research. They try to attract our students, but most Iranian scientists want to stay in Iran because their families live here. It would be ideal to have more cooperation between Iran and other countries so that researchers from Royan Institute can go to European countries for a few months and then come back to continue their research here. In this way, we could work together and exchange ideas.

What is necessary to continue this flourishing state of the medical research industry in Iran?

NA If we want to be successful with our five products, we cannot stop at the development phase. We have to create supporting technologies, standards, and regulations. Fortunately, we have found new venture capital investors that want to invest money in research, so now we have good resources to develop our technology through the different stages. Our system of utilizing stem cell technology at Cell Tech Pharmed is autologous. This means we get the cell sample for a single patient and do the process just for this individual. Under this system, the price is extremely high. The next step for us is to shift our stem cell technology to an allogeneic system where you use a donor source for a number of people. This will allow the price to go down. We have started using the allogeneic system at Royan Institute to produce billions of cells, rather than the current 100 million, so that we can use them for a number of patients.

HG In order to be successful in the future, we must continue the way we work. We have to produce the things we need in the country, because there is always a risk that sanctions will be imposed again. We cannot sit back and think about importing everything. We do need foreign products so we must reinforce our relationships with other countries, but we cannot be fully dependent on them. We want to have collaborations with scientific and research institutes outside Iran, and because of this we always invite scientists from all over the world to Iran. In this way, they can see how we work and they can be informed about research in Iran and at Royan Institute.