ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health minister Abdul Qadir Patel on Thursday expressed hope the UAE would set up the first of its kind Plasma Farming Facilities (PFFs) in Pakistan “as early as possible.”
A delegation from the UAE led by a member of the ruling family of Dubai, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, arrived in Pakistan earlier this week and met the health minister to discuss the project and carry out a feasibility study. The delegation also included members of Hayat Biotech Limited, a biotechnology company in the Emirates, Group 42 (G42) and China’s Sinopharm.
Plasma farming technology is a growing field in the areas of therapeutic patient care and clinical medicine. It involves the process of plasma fractionation which is the downstream processing of plasma that has been harvested by donors. It breaks plasma into individual proteins, or plasma fractions.
Protein products fractionated from human plasma are an essential class of therapeutics used, often as the only available option, in the prevention, management, and treatment of life-threatening conditions resulting from trauma, congenital deficiencies, immunologic disorders, or infections.
“We have discussed establishing state-of-the-art PFFs in Pakistan which will be first of its kind as we have Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFPs) extraction but not farming ability,” Patel told Arab News in an interview.
Fresh frozen plasma is a blood product made from the liquid portion of whole blood. It is used to treat conditions in which there are low blood clotting factors or low levels of other blood proteins. It may also be used as the replacement fluid in plasma exchange.
Pakistan and UAE have been working on the PFF project for a few months, the health minister said, and a Pakistani delegation had visited the UAE in this regard in June.
“It is a follow-up visit by the UAE delegation to assess potential, and to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of PFFs based on World Health Organization’s standards,” he said, adding that blood services in the country were mostly provided by hospital blood banks with no functional separation of the plasma processes into production and utilization.
“Very soon,” Patel said when asked when the PFFs would become functional: “After the submission of a report by the UAE delegation, we will try to expedite the whole process and would like to start this facility as early as possible.”
“We are thankful to the UAE government as due to their efforts and personal interest of Sheikh Al Maktoum, who engaged a consortium of G-42, Sinopharm, Hayat Biotech Limited and led a delegation for assessment and feasibility study of the project,” the health minister said.
As a first step, he said, the team would conduct onsite visits to regional blood centers in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi to evaluate the readiness of the sites for the establishment of PFFs.
After this visit, the UAE delegation would submit its report in around two weeks, Patel said, “and then we will sign an agreement to cover its legal framework”.
He said the facilities would save Pakistan precious foreign exchange by reducing the need to import several expensive medicines.
“No country can sustain without working on plasma farming as we have to import all the plasma-based medicines which cost us millions of dollar foreign exchange,” he said, adding that additionally, plasma would also be easily available, especially for thalassemia, hepatitis, and cancer patients.
The minister said Pakistan was also in talks with the UAE to establish a genetical database profiling system to digitalize the Pakistani health system, revamp major hospitals across the country and help in the modernization of health equipment and training of staff.
Rashed Abdulrehman Al Zamar, the deputy head of mission (DHM) at the UAE Embassy in Islamabad, called the Emirati delegation’s visit “successful.”
“The visit was successful,” he said, “and the UAE is keen to invest in different sectors of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, especially in the health field.”