By Faranak Bakhtiari

You sanction it, we build it

February 13, 2022 - 18:0

TEHRAN – Knowledge-based companies are breaking U.S. monopoly by manufacturing sanctioned items to meet the needs of the domestic market while saving large amounts of foreign currency.

On February 6, the national media broke the news that the country has overcome a recent sanction-derived shortage of insulin pens challenging diabetic patients, with the transfer of technology from a German company, through the efforts of a knowledge-based company.

Currently, over 7,000 knowledge-based companies are active in the country producing sanctioned items to reduce imports.

The fields of aircraft maintenance, steel, nanotech, biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, oil, and gas are among the sectors that researchers in technology companies have engaged in.

With the outbreak of coronavirus, the country's knowledge-based ecosystem endeavored to surge production to meet the country’s need for self-protective equipment along with medical and pharmaceutical items to fight against the pandemic, at a time when other developed countries were struggling with a severe lack of personal protective tools.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, domestic firms began their activities to develop test kits, vaccines, medicine, and other strategic products; Not only has it fully met the country's needs, but it has also the capacity to be exported.

Most recently, a company developed a technological test kit to diagnose the new Omicron strains, which is also one of the top three manufacturers of COVID-19 antigen-based diagnostic kits.

While, another technology company has developed an antigen-based rapid detection kit, which can detect the Omicron variant in less than 20 minutes.

Knowledge-based companies can produce any medicine effective in countering coronavirus or approved by the scientific committee within a week to 10 days, Sourena Sattari, vice president for science and technology, said.

In January 2021, the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam, unveiled three raw pharmaceuticals and a new anti-coronavirus drug called Ivermectin, which had been previously imported.

Iran also produced drugs confirmed to be effective in the coronavirus treatment, including, Remdesivir, Tocilizumab.

Considering that five coronavirus vaccines have so far been produced domestically, Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said in June 2021 that Iran is one of the few countries that has all vaccine production platforms.

On February 7, ISNA reported that two domestic companies have completed the animal phase of a clinical study to develop vaccines against the Omicron strain.

COVIRAN, the first homegrown vaccine made by researchers at the Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam, is the first vaccine in West Asia that is in the process of global registration through the World Health Organization.

The vaccine also showed effectiveness in fighting the coronavirus more than foreign rivals, namely Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, and Sputnik, according to a new study conducted by Iranian researchers.

Meanwhile, these national heroes strived several times to break the U.S monopoly on the production of specific medicine or medical equipment, a simple example of which was the creation of doxorubicin, Sina Doxosome in Iran, a chemotherapy medication used to treat cancer that was previously monopolized by the United States, Canada, and India. Which is being exported to the regional countries over the past two years.

Iran excels in nanotech, biotech

Sattari said that Iran is playing the leading role in the region in the fields of fintech, ICT, stem cell, aerospace, and is unrivaled in artificial intelligence.

Iran has created centers in six Asian countries for exporting nanotechnology products, including China, India, Indonesia, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq.

Revenue from nanotechnology products will reach up to 200 trillion rials (nearly $727 million) by the end of the current [Iranian calendar] year (March 21), anticipated Saeed Sarkar, secretary of the Nanotechnology Innovation Council.

Over the past 20 years, 850 nano products have entered the market from 25 industrial sectors, showing that the industries have accepted that nanotechnology has developed the market, he stated.

Last [Iranian calendar] year, the sale of nano goods amounted to 115 trillion rials (about $460 million), so we hope to exceed 200 trillion rials (nearly $727 million) by the next month.

Around 450 knowledge-based companies are currently working to use nanotechnology for manufacturing more than 850 products.

Nearly 800 knowledge-based companies in the country are currently operating in the field of biotechnology and supplying their products and services to the domestic market.

Iran is ranked 12th in the world and first in West Asia in terms of biotechnology, as 9.5 percent of the income of knowledge-based companies and more than 60 percent of their exports are related to biotechnology.

Foreign exchange savings of $1 billion per year by producing 22 biopharmaceuticals, gaining the first rank in biotechnology products and vaccines in West Asia, and the presence among the top five biotechnology producers in Asia are among the country’s achievements, Mostafa Ghanei, secretary of the biotechnology development office of the Vice Presidency for Science and Technology, said in October 2020.

So far, 27 biotechnology medicines, 12 vaccine projects, 90 pharmaceutical raw materials, and 55 projects in agriculture and food security have been implemented in order to gain a 3 percent market share and biotechnology assistance to the development of the economy, he explained.

Share of knowledge-based firms in economy 

In an interview with the Bangkok Post published on February 7, Iran's Ambassador to Thailand, Seyed Reza Nobakthi, said although Iran is known for its crude oil exports, Tehran has become actively involved in the nanotechnology, pharmaceutical, and health sectors.

Iran's technological capacity has allowed it to churn out advanced machinery, such as Sena, a telesurgery system that launched in 2015. Indonesia, the ambassador added, recently purchased two telesurgery robots.

Vice President for Science and Technology, Sourena Sattari told the Tehran Times in October 2020 that “U.S. sanctions caused exports of knowledge-based companies to decline three years ago, however, it has returned to growth and is projected to reach the pre-sanctions level of more than $1 billion.

However, today, the share of knowledge-based companies in the country's economy has exceeded 9 quadrillion rials (about $34 billion), and since 2019, it has experienced a growth of more than 450 percent, Sattari stated in an interview with Fars on Sunday.

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