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KAUST announced a collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson to explore opportunities for research and innovation in the area of neglected tropical diseases, with a focus on dengue fever. The partnership signifies Johnson & Johnson's first university partnership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding at a ceremony in the presence of His Excellency Khalid A. Al-Falih, Saudi Minister of Investment, who presided alongside senior executives from Johnson & Johnson and KAUST.
KAUST and Janssen will collaborate on the establishment of a dengue fever research program, and the development of an infectious disease R&D center in the KAUST National BioPark, based in the university's Research and Technology Park (KRTP), to conduct activities related to the clinical development of innovative medicines.
"This partnership is a milestone for KAUST and for Saudi Arabia to establish localized disease research," said Dr. Tony Chan, KAUST president. "KAUST has considerable expertise in artificial intelligence, genomics and data simulations and can offer Janssen access to this pool of world-class academics and scientists. Quality R&D is critical to successful disease innovation, and together our combined efforts can create significant global impact towards this neglected tropical disease discovery and treatment."
Janssen is a natural fit for the growing life sciences and biopharmaceutical ecosystem at KAUST. The Johnson & Johnson company aims to deliver an end-to-end approach to prevent, treat and cure infectious diseases, ranging from COVID-19 to HIV to viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases that affect the world's most vulnerable populations.
Speaking on the partnerships, Vishnu Kalra, managing director for Janssen GCC, said: "At Johnson & Johnson we have a long-standing commitment to tackling neglected tropical diseases through innovation and collaboration. This new partnership with KAUST has the potential to accelerate much needed medicines for the prevention and treatment of dengue fever thanks to their established expertise with dengue in the country. Through partnerships such as this we are working to ensure that the Kingdom is better prepared to prevent and address the threat of future epidemics in the region.
Academic collaborations with industry are vital for the advancement of biopharmaceutical research and technology development. In 2018, KAUST began implementing a National BioPark strategy aimed at accelerating Saudi biopharmaceutical technology development and creating technical jobs in the fields of biomedical medicines and advanced industrial applications within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.
"KAUST works with the world's best companies to maximize the flow of our research into use in the economy, society and community," said Dr. Kevin Cullen, KAUST vice president of Innovation & Economic Development. "This partnership with Janssen is very important to us as a means of delivering dengue biopharmaceutical research into patient treatment."
The KAUST Research and Technology Park is an innovation base for more than 40 companies and is an emerging R&D hub for the biotechnology industry. The BioPark initiative provides access to the larger KAUST innovation ecosystem, state of the art laboratories, uniquely-equipped Core Labs, technology development capabilities and, importantly, KAUST's large talent pool.