Wednesday, 12, May, 2004 (23, Rabi` al-Awwal, 1425)

Conference Seeks Biotech Business
Maha Akeel, Arab News —

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 ways.

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 information flow.

“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 whole population.

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.

Dr. Hwa A. Lim, Distinguished Speaker,
lectures on
"Binformatics - Informatics of biotech, info tech and nanotech",
BioSaudi 2004, May 10-12, 2004,
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


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