JEDDAH, 12 May 2004 — The Saudi Bio 2004 Conference, which
ends here today, throws into relief the bewildering range of
innovations brought together under the biotech umbrella.
Millions are already being poured into biotech, and
billions are slated to follow. That is why the conference
projected itself as a forum to explore business opportunities
as well as an information exchange.
“The thrust of the Saudi Bio 2004 Conference is to look for
novel ideas and explore business opportunities. Following
Saudi Bio 2002 and the establishment of Jeddah Bio City,
several multimillion-riyal projects were already identified,
funded and successfully established,” said Dr. Ezzeldin
Ibrahim, chairman of the organizing committee.
The conference, organized by King Faisal Specialist
Hospital and Research Center, brought together more than 50
local, regional and international experts.
Biotechnology uses biological processes to solve problems
or make useful products — but that encompasses hugely diverse
applications. Biotech has uses in medicine, the environment
and industries and can affect people’s lives in a myriad
For instance, Hwa Lim, the head of D’Trends Inc. in the US,
described where biotechnology, information technology and
nanotechnology meet, stressing the all-important role of
“Biotechnology changed medicine in the way we understand
the sources of disorders and diseases, and began to change the
way we diagnose diseases and propose therapeutic
interference,” claims Dr. Salah Mandil, consultant at
eStrategies and eHealth in Geneva.
Bioinformatics is the use of computing, networking and
communications, and, according to Dr. Mandil, there are
lessons to learn from the experiences of bioinformatics to
better manage health care services, “for example in the way we
collect data for a survey to determine where the diseases are
and how they are spreading among the population, and whether
certain interventions are successful or not.”
Better techniques in collecting data used in bioinformatics
based on the pooling of these efforts and using techniques
like remote sensing and tele-collection of data could
dramatically cut the cost of such projects.
Here especially, much of the developing world has a lot of
catching up to do, he said.
Dr. Maged Boulos, lecturer of health care informatics at
the University of Bath in the UK, explained applications of
information and communication technologies in health care —
from the molecular level to the individual and eventually the
His specialty is health geo-informatics: thinking of
populations rather than individuals in planning new services.
Geographic information systems are potentially powerful tools
that can empower decision-making at all levels, help in
developing cost-effective programs and services and predict
outcomes before any financial commitments are made.