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Pfizer marks a new chapter in AI and gene therapy

Article-Pfizer marks a new chapter in AI and gene therapy

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Pfizer continues to play an active role in advancing medicine with ongoing global research, investments and partnerships, marking a 175-year legacy of patient-centric care.

Biopharmaceutical leaders Pfizer mapped out an exciting journey in AI and gene therapy in the Middle East, Russia and Africa (MERA), as its regional headquarters in Dubai marked their 175th anniversary on Tuesday.

Patrick van der Loo, Regional President, and Yasser El Dershaby, MD., who is the Vice-President — Medical Affairs Lead in the Middle East, Africa, Russia, Belarus and CauCAR, said that the next decade is expected to see scientific breakthroughs as Pfizer places a stronger focus on natural language processing, big data and integrated technology to gather medical insights, analyse healthcare data, and improve patient outcomes.

“We are also using different integrated technologies to reach patients in their own language, regardless of where they are, and customising the healthcare approach and patient-related medical strategies. Just as we have omnichannel retail, we now have similar omnichannel strategies to customise our approach for healthcare professionals as well as for patients. I think Pfizer is one of the few organisations that is maximising the use of artificial intelligence in everything we do, even in our internal operations,” El Dershaby said.

van Der Loo highlighted Pfizer’s atrial fibrillation programme as a recent example of its AI prowess.

“Here, a programme was developed to manage the atrial fibrillation of a patient and through the use of AI, we could automatically adapt the video to every language in the world, while keeping in mind the specific restrictions that a label may have in one country versus another. This way we can have patient information and applications delivered faster than before,” he explained.

To date, Pfizer is active in 75 countries within the MERA region, and patient-centricity and accessibility remain its key focus areas. Loo revealed that in 2023, its medicines reached over 45 million patients in MERA and these numbers exclude the COVID-19 vaccine and related treatments. Additionally, 30 of its access programmes — dedicated to oncology, inflammatory and rare diseases, among others — reached over 15,000 patients in 11 countries in the region, arming them with the knowledge to understand their condition and make informed decisions for treatment.

In the same year, Pfizer also launched a mobile app, IUdo, in Egypt, Qatar and Lebanon to enhance the patient experience for those accessing their medicines through their affordability programmes.

El Dershaby also highlighted recent investments and new partnerships with four different biotech companies to develop mRNA vaccines to combat various cancers. Among these is Pfizer’s recent acquisition of Seagen, which will further expand its research and development around oncology solutions.

Other promising news involves the results of a recent CROWN study that evaluated a lung cancer treatment in people with previously untreated, anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Lorlatinib showed that it could comfortably extend the lives of patients by an additional five years.

Pfizer is also prioritising rare diseases that are prominent in the Middle East region, including Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and thalassemia. The biopharmaceutical company signed an MOU with the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi (DoH) earlier this year to advance research in SCD, which involves observing real-world data with the aid of AI.

From oncology and internal medicine to vaccines and immunology, Pfizer continues to actively work with governments, regulatory authorities and local communities to advance research and ensure their discoveries and portfolio reach those in need.


Pfizer’s achievements are aplenty but below are a few notable milestones that revolutionised healthcare and its delivery:

1849: Founded by German cousins — Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart
1944: Became the world’s largest producer of penicillin
1950~: Established their first International Division in the US in 1950, followed by an entry into other markets — South Africa in 1951, Kenya and Nigeria in 1957, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in 1960s, and so on. Its first Middle East headquarters was set up in Dubai, UAE in 1997.
1967: Released their first broad-spectrum antibiotic
2003: Started delivering skills-based services to health organisations through the Global Health Fellows Program
2004: The Infectious Disease Institute was established in Uganda to train professionals and offer related treatments
2010: Pfizer-DSV distribution hub launched in Dubai to cater to the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain. Also launched the vaccine to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease in children aged six to 17 years.
2016: Pfizer’s Ibrance receives approval to treat metastatic breast cancer
2020: Manufactured with BioNTech, Pfizer created and distributed the vaccine against COVID-19 at lightning speed to control the epidemic
2023: Pfizer acquires Seagon to accelerate the next generation of cancer treatments

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