Life Sciences Thrust Needed

The time is ripe for Caribbean and African countries to leverage their scientific capabilities to make meaningful contributions to the growth and development of the life sciences sector.

So says Chief Executive Officer of Export Barbados (BIDC), Mark Hill, who insisted that the scientists on the ground have been too academic – focused more on writing papers than producing products. Consequently, he said, very few patents have come out of the Caribbean and Africa.

“We have very little intellectual property in the medical space, whether it be medical devices, even pharmaceuticals, even just basic nutraceuticals. It’s just staying in the academic arena, but for the investment to take place, that stuff has to get lifted off of paper, it has to get lifted off of policy and a business framework has to get put around it,” he stated.

He raised these matters during a panel discussion on ‘Health Care and Life Sciences – Collective Health Security through Pooled Procurement, Shared Intelligence, and Response’ during the recently held AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum 2022 (ACTIF2022) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. Moreover, he called for more research and development (R&D) to take place, to move the academic studies into clinical trials to help attract investors.

“I really want to challenge both the Caribbean medical fraternity and African medical fraternity that we need to become more commercially oriented. We are not commercially oriented, and we are being swamped by products from North America, that might not necessarily fit our genotype, but yet, we are not putting in the research and development”.

Reflecting on Export Barbados’ efforts in life sciences, he revealed attention is being paid to fostering an R&D space that is not paper-oriented but product-oriented and putting the requisite labs in place.

“So we have the international food science center here in Barbados, we’re getting ready to put a digitization center in place for the life sciences. So we want more practical activity that will now drive and encourage banks, credit unions and an Exim bank to invest because they want to see numbers at the end of the day,” he noted.