The National Policy for Science and Technology, which was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2002, defined 11 programs for the development and transfer of strategic technologies that are essential for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s future progress. One of these programs, biotechnology, is driven by a desire to increase growth in the country’s economy and to provide a safe place to live for all members. While King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) is in charge of supervising the implementation of the National Policy for Science and Technology, the Natural Resources and Environment Research Institute (NRERI) is in charge of implementing the biotechnology strategic plan.
The Director of the Natural Resources and Environment Research Institute (NRERI), Dr. Abdulaziz M. Al-Swailem, gave an overview of KSA’s “Science & Technology Strategic Plan for Biotechnology” at Alfaisal University on Tuesday 17 November 2009 as part of the KACST-NRERI/Alfaisal University Seminar Series. The presentation was attended by faculty, staff and students, as well as representatives from other institutions.
The strategic objectives that the biotechnology program hopes to achieve are:
- Transfer & develop cutting edge biotechnology
- Provide an environment that encourages creativity and investment in the field
- Direct applications to achieve health & food safety as well as security
- Protect the environmental resources of the country through the development of appropriate biotechnology applications & products
- Strengthen the relationship between the program and society
Three priority technology areas have been identified; medical, agricultural and environmental. Medical research, for example, covers chronic diseases, growth & aging, infectious diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes & its complications. Agricultural research deals with plant & animal breeding, bioproduct production and plant protection. Environmental research emphasizes microbial biodiversity, bioremediation, microbial enhancement, biopolymers, biosensors, as well as fermentation & bioreactors.
Dr. Abdulaziz, in his current position as Director of the NRERI, is responsible for a group of 350 staff. He has been working at KACST for 20 years. Dr. Al Swailem also holds the posts of Director of the Biotechnology Research Center and Chair of the National Committee for Bio- & Medical Ethics.
Dr. Maher Alodan, the Vice President for Research & Graduate Studies, and Dean of Engineering, at Alfaisal University, said that “we are privileged to have someone of Dr. Al-Swailem’s expertise taking part in the seminar series. The interaction between our two institutions is very important. It is hoped that this will enhance research collaboration and that it will eventually lead to possible new products and processes that will aid in the economic diversification and development of the country”.