17/03/2014 15:55 AST

The regional logistics major Aramex is aiming to tap into the growing market for medical courier services in the Middle East.

The Dubai-listed company launched its new service called Biocare for the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region on the opening day of the Arablab exhibition at Dubai World Trade Centre yesterday.

It has already piloted the service in Bahrain, South Africa, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – allowing hospitals and clinics to send and receive samples and high value drugs.

“We are looking at major hubs where tests are done such as the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom as well as India and Dubai,” said Sami Hammoudeh, the global director of customer relationship management at Aramex. “We want to connect the emerging markets with these hubs.”

Aramex has 354 offices around the world.

“The frontline [of people] to extract the samples are there, but the back end [to process the samples locally] is disappearing because of cost, advancement of technology, economies of scale, and access to technology,” Mr Hammoudeh said.

And this is where stakeholders such as Aramex come into the picture.

With smaller laboratories being consolidated into mega-labs, the trend is expected to continue. Yesterday, the New York-listed lab equipment manufacturer Thermo Fisher Scientific announced it had acquired Zurich-based Prionics, an animal health testing facility. Last month, it acquired California’s Life Technologies.

The clients for Aramex’s new line of service would include laboratories, hospitals, clinics and pharmaceutical companies.

The service would ship infectious and non-infectious samples within a 72-hour time frame. Aramex provides the shipper with styrofoam boxes including a temperature monitoring device.

Its first clients included Metropolis Hospital and Metropolis Lab in South Africa, Bahrain’s ministry of agriculture that sends samples of horse blood to Dubai for testing, and National Guard Health Affairs medical complex in Saudi Arabia. It has also shipped specimens from Libya to the King Hussein Cancer Centre in Amman.

“We are now looking to transport umbilical cords,” Mr Hammoudeh said.

Net profits of Aramex rose to Dh76.4 million in the last quarter ending 2013, up from Dh65.7m in the corresponding period in 2012, an increase of 16 per cent. About 75 per cent of its revenues came from Middle East and Africa, while Europe contributed 15 per cent.

This year, Aramex is one of the 920 exhibitors at the 32nd edition of Arablab. The exhibition runs until Saturday. While only 20 per cent of the exhibitors are in the medical analysis sector, the rest are in the food, quality control, environment, construction, petrochemical and forensics sectors.

One of the fastest growing sectors within Arablab is laboratory furniture “because the laboratories and academic institutions are growing at a phenomenal rate [in the region]”, said David Domoney, the managing director of Arablab. “And many of the larger companies want a [satellite office] in the UAE to reach Mena, the Indian subcontinent, and further afield to Asia.”

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