By Daniel Abrego

Although we have made strides in lengthening life expectancy and changing the Medicines Law, some of the most commonly used medications and for chronic diseases are still unjustifiably expensive in Panama. To ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing requires more action, including solutions that bring cheaper medicines. It is time for Panama to ensure the health and wellbeing of its people with specific infrastructure, education and investment. A biocenter, or pharma hub, is an example of these principles coming together.

What is a biocenter?

A biocenter is a hub specifically for the life sciences industry. It may include research institutes, biotech companies and universities on the same campus, bringing together talented students as well as scientists and entrepreneurs. A biocenter exists to incentivize R&D, encourage discoveries, and share information and events. All towards the aim of enabling wider access to therapies among humans.

The benefits of a biocenter

A biocenter can provide infrastructure and services as well as facilitate collaboration between academia and industry. On campus, one can enjoy the benefits of a network with direct access to pharma individuals and companies. The universities in a biocenter are internationally recognized and produce graduates who are better trained and ready to work straight away in pharma, biotech companies, labs and research institutes. Participation in international forums and fairs is regular and high.

Sharing of information and facilities such as laboratories, equipment, storage areas, offices and conference rooms also leads to lower costs and easier financing for the community. This is especially important for early stage biotech companies who also seek training courses in business as well as product development.

A biocenter attracts service companies which provide housing, entertainment, parks and recreation facilities, IT and administration, technical support and communications. Even business advisory and assistance is key for these companies to function.

A biocenter can be a thriving hub for invention, manufacturing and business formation. As well as harnessing talent, it has the potential to attract increased investment in the biotechnology sector and the region. Most importantly, the end result is helping to achieve healthy communities of people. After all, they are the foundation for healthy industry and economy.

Why Panama needs a biocenter

Firstly, Panama imports almost 90% of its medicines and is severely lacking the capacity to serve its own people. A pharma hub would alleviate the economy and meet local demand through increased productivity.

Secondly, despite the relatively small size of Panama, labeling, repackaging and other value-add services in Panama’s Free Trade Zones are a huge commercial opportunity. Considering Panama’s ideal geographic location between North and South America, maritime connectivity along the Panama Canal and Tocumen International Airport, which is the largest airport in the region, these factors make it a business-friendly place along with tax and fiscal incentives. It is the ideal gateway for re-export of medicines and medical devices to Central America, North America and Latin America.


Daniel Abrego is CEO of ILC. He is an international logistics expert and business innovator.