Following the signing by APEX National Investment and Sheba Medical Center of a joint directive to accelerate healthcare innovation in the UAE, a range of new and exciting healthcare solutions are expected to be promoted in the region.
“We believe that the agreement between APEX National Investment and Sheba will change the dynamics of healthcare and innovation in the UAE and act as a harbinger of ‘peace and prosperity’ in the Gulf region and beyond, where hope knows no boundaries,” said Prof. Yitshak Kreiss, Director General of Sheba Medical Center.
David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel, expressed his sentiment that healthcare is a fitting arena for the first significant partnership between Israel and the UAE, highlighting how the Abraham Accords are already creating a safer, more prosperous Middle East.
“Seeing the life science sectors from these two countries come together with speed and professionalism is a great indicator of the potential of the Abraham Accord,” said Avi Berkowitz, White House special representative for international negotiations.
“We see this as a bridge for peace not only between Israel and the UAE,” said Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, Deputy Director General, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Innovation Officer at Sheba, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. “This will be an ‘ARC’ that will serve not only the UAE but the whole region, and the hope is that this opens up new avenues to work with our neighbors that we don’t currently have ties with.”
Titled the ARC Gulf initiative, the project comprises all elements needed to jumpstart healthcare innovation in the region, including a physical hub, team of specialists, an array of start-ups, complete data infrastructure and a comprehensive network.
Contemporary medical challenges will be addressed by APEX and Sheba, such as battling COVID-19, artificial intelligence, telemedicine, digital advances in surgery and rehabilitation, precision medicine, and virtual and augmented reality. There is also a discussion of a joint investment fund.
Healthcare authorities in the UAE’s public and private sectors will collaborate to implement the hallmark agreement, which is driven by the same concepts as Sheba’s ARC. The ARC Innovation Center joins startups, industry, clinicians, leading medical centers, and national partners in Israel to change the future of healthcare.
Khalifa Khoury, APEX national investment chairman, said, “The agreement reflects the extent of the two countries’ interest in developing and reaching the highest standards in the field of health to serve the people in the region, as well as an extension of both states’ efforts in developing cutting-edge innovation in the medical field.”
The recent agreement between Sheba and APEX represents the culmination of the hospital’s year-long effort to work with the Gulf. In June 2019, Prof. Kreiss participated in the “Peace for Prosperity” workshop held in Bahrain. According to a Facebook post he shared, he spent time there with Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s former ambassador to the US, discussing how healthcare and medical innovation can stimulate economic growth for the Middle East and Gulf regions.
“The conference was called Peace for Prosperity,” Prof. Kreiss said. “I understood immediately that healthcare – medicine – is one of the best vehicles for prosperity in the region. It has no barriers at all. You can build a true bridge.”
Prof. Kreiss added that Sheba is working with other Gulf states, but sharing the details at present could “jeopardize the relationships.”
The APEX-Sheba agreement accelerated rapidly, explained Yoel Hareven, Director of the International Division at Sheba. Preliminary negotiations with the UAE were held in 2018 and 2019, but nothing was set until after the two countries declared their shared goal of normalization. Hareven said that UAE representatives contacted him within a week after that announcement was made.
“They were waiting for the opportunity,” Hareven said, noting that signing the final contract is scheduled to occur within the next six months, if not before, and it is likely that there will also be representation in the ARC from Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Bahrain and Oman – as this is a point of entry to Israel for non-radical Gulf states.
“I think it is so important to have a bridge there,” he continued. “Right now, our aim is to build one ARC in the Emirates and that it will be an ARC for the area. But we never say never. If there was a suggestion to build an ARC in Morocco, we would be happy to do it.”
An official signing ceremony to be attended by UAE’s Health Minister and members of the Royal Family will take place in Abu Dhabi between September 21 and 24.