Kelix bio is a specialty generic business focused on emerging markets backed by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, British International Investments (formerly CDC), and Development Partners International.

Chief Executive Hocine Sidi-Said, who has long experience at senior level with Pfizer, UCB, Axantia, and others, is overseeing the company’s €750 million investment in a bid to improve access to lifesaving drugs together with Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Corporate Development Alhadi Alwazir.

Kelix was set up to be a ‘ground-breaking’, major pharmaceutical player in emerging markets. What particular segments is the company targeting?

Mr Alwazir: Kelix bio really aims to break the monopoly of multinational pharmaceutical companies on specialty generic pharmaceuticals that are in the public domain.

More complex therapies, such as biosimilars, both in diabetes and oncology, and cytotoxics and other hospital injectables, often only have a single source of supply, or no localised supplier with the full spectrum of therapies.

Our higher purpose is to widen access to these therapies for a broad range of markets that include Africa, Middle East, India, and other emerging market countries. If that means we need to break new ground, then we are happy to do that.

Since its foundation in 2020, Kelix has gone on a spending spree, acquiring subsidiaries in India, Egypt, Morocco, and Malta. Where does Malta fit in this ambitious plan?

Mr Alwazir: Malta, unlike many of our investments, was actually a pleasant surprise. It was not on our radar prior to initiating the programme, as it was a subsidiary, two levels down, from an Italian generic firm that was looking to refocus on its core activities. We had always wanted to have an asset in a country that enjoys freedom to operate, but being able to combine that with a European jurisdiction was very compelling for Kelix bio.

Through Malta, we intend to access many global emerging markets, including North Africa, South Africa, as well as other highly stringent emerging markets in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

It remains a southern hemisphere strategy that is supported by Malta’s high-quality infrastructure, its regulatory window, the quality of the actual manufacturing asset, and Kelix bio’s product portfolio and offering.

How easy was it to incorporate existing Maltese operations into a global enterprise?

Mr Sidi Said: Integrating any operation into Kelix bio is always a challenging task, but such integration is considered as part of our evaluation and due diligence work. We have found an excellent partner in the Maltese government, the various agencies, including Malta Enterprise, the industrial estate where we operate, and the regulator, all of which have been supportive with specific initiatives to support our investments and operations in the country.

What synergies with the local pharma sector are most beneficial to investors when setting up in Malta?

Mr Alwazir: Within Malta there is an ample ecosystem of market participants that lend critical mass to the biopharmaceutical manufacturing activities of Kelix bio – this existing infrastructure provides the efficiencies and network needed for success.

What attraction does Malta hold for companies planning to tap into Africa’s growing markets?

Mr Sidi Said: I would suggest three key metrics. First, the high standards of quality supported by the thorough requirements of any EU regulatory authority. Second, the efficient environment for operations and investment that allow for prices aligned with wider access. And third, the logistical and cultural proximity that Malta shares with patients.

What were the key reasons for the choice of Malta as an operational base?

Mr Sidi Said: Many factors make Malta a compelling location for Kelix bio, but the ones that stand out are the gold standard regulatory environment, the availability of talent, and the fact that Malta’s own public policy priorities align with the biopharmaceutical industry.

What are your thoughts on the ease of doing business in Malta?

Mr Sidi Said: Malta is clearly a business-friendly destination in terms of both private enterprise considerations – such as finding talented individuals to bolster our leadership there – as well as public engagement considerations – with the Maltese government, agencies, and regulator committed to enhancing Malta’s competitiveness in the global biopharmaceutical marketplace by investing time and resources in the development of the sector.

This feature was first carried in the Malta Invest 2023 edition. Malta Invest is the first-ever comprehensive international investment guide focusing on Malta as a destination. It is produced by Content House Group.

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Robert Fenech

Robert is curious about the connections that make the world work, and takes a particular interest in the confluence of economy, environment and justice. He can also be found moonlighting as a butler for his big black cat.