The United Arab Emirates announced that it would commence new COVID-19 vaccine production in a joint venture with China’s Sinopharm and UAE’s Group 42. Called Hayat-Vax it will be produced in a new factory later this year and has major regional ramifications. The vaccine is the same one approved in the UAE for use last December and which is based on the vaccine from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a unit of Sinopharm China National Biotec.An announcement about the deal noted that the UAE and Chinese foreign ministers witnessed the launch of the “made in UAE” vaccine this week. “Interim vaccine production is already underway,” the statement notes and a full manufacturing plant will be operational in 2021. “In a historic move in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Arab Emirates today announced the commencement of the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccine in the country,” the announcement said. It points out that “Hayat” means “life” in Arabic and that the joint venture is with one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world that has supplied over 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine globally, partnering with G42, the leading technology company based in Abu Dhabi.Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said, “the advancement in Life Sciences and Vaccine Manufacturing in our country is UAE’s contribution towards global efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the whole world,” stressing that “the UAE, with the guidance of its wise leadership, believes in the importance of strengthening collective international action.” The announcement was witnessed by Al Nahyan, UAE foreign affairs minister, and Wang Yi, China’s state councilor and foreign affairs minister. Wang has been travelling across the Middle East making major headway for China’s role in the region. He has visited Iran and also Saudi Arabia. He also went to Turkey, Oman and Bahrain on the trip. This represents China’s growing role in the region. The vaccine deal is linked to this and thus has important implications.“The launch of the vaccine manufacturing capabilities in the UAE is a momentous step in the fight against COVID-19. We are grateful to the shared vision of the UAE and China, their true partnership and collaboration to make this a reality,” said Peng Xiao, CEO of G42. “This initiative in the UAE is a strategic advancement to future proof the population health of our nations. Our JV (joint venture) is also actively looking to bring our capabilities to new markets around the world.”The announcement of the deal also came amid the launch of a purpose-built research and development hub for life sciences, biotechnology and vaccine production, which organizers say is “the first-of-its-kind in the Arab world.” The new vaccine plant in KIZAD (Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi) will become operational this year and over its phased development will have a production capacity of 200 million doses a year across three filling lines and five automated packaging lines, the organizers say. “The joint venture is already producing Hayat-Vax with its partner, Julphar in the UAE with an initial capacity of 2 million doses per month,” the announcement from Group 42 and Sinopharm notes.“When COVID-19 began to spread rampantly last year, the UAE and its leading technology company G42 explored the possibility of hosting the clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine in the country. Sinopharm has undertaken the mission of fighting this pandemic and thanks to the close collaboration with the UAE, Sinopharm’s vaccine has been now administered to millions of people in the country, the region, and the world in a fundamental step towards defeating this virus. We are proud to partner with G42 in this new Joint Venture that will play a vital role in combating COVID-19 globally, making an indelible contribution to the health of our communities,” said Liu Jingzhen, chairman of Sinopharm. Group 42 is based in Abu Dhabi and is a leading Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing company dedicated to the development and implementation of holistic and scalable technology solutions. Last year Group 42 agreed to collaborate with Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, two Israeli defense and aeronautics giants, on fighting COVID 19. That announcement, in July 2020, was even before the Abraham Accords were declared in August. Group 42 also became the first major UAE company to announce a Tel Aviv office in September 2020 following the declaration to normalize diplomatic relations between the two states. Group 42 has thus been a major pioneer in battling COVID and building international partnerships that have a potential to reshape the region.