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Northeastern explores biotech collaboration with Algeria

Photo by Christopher Huang.

Northeastern University hosted a delegation of Algerian inter-ministerial leaders last Wednesday, including Djamel Ould Abbès, the Minister of Health, Population and Hospital Reform.

The U.S.-Algeria Business Council facilitated the meeting, which also included representatives of the Ministry of Industry, SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and Promotion of Investment; the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security; and the Embassy of Algeria in Washington, D.C.

The goal of the meeting was to share the interdisciplinary research being conducted by faculty members in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences and to foster potential partnerships between Algeria and the University in the biotechnology sector.

Northeastern’s robust collaboration with hospitals, community health centers and pharmaceutical research labs in Boston and around the world makes the University an ideal partner for Algeria, said Judith Barr, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy who helped organize the event.

She compared Algeria’s biotech ambitions to those of Singapore, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build infrastructure, fund research and development and recruit top international scientists.

“Algeria is intent on developing a biotechnology presence,” said Barr, who also serves as the director of the National Education and Research Center for Outcomes Assessment in the pharmacy school. “They look at Northeastern as a model and as a collaborator.”

Ould Abbès, who visited the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and the Massachusetts Department of State as part of his two-day tour of Boston, met privately with Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun and Provost Stephen W. Director.

He praised Northeastern’s diverse faculty and student body and expressed interested in collaborating with the University. “I was greatly impressed by the diversity of countries and citizens of every religion and ethnicity at Northeastern,” Ould Abbès said, adding, “I found an incredible spirit of solidarity and fraternity present at the University.

“We are very keen on establishing close cooperation between Algerian universities and Northeastern.”

Alexandros Makriyannis, director of the Center for Drug Discovery and Behrakis Trustee Chair in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, gave the delegates an overview of his research. In one major study, he is exploring the effect of cannabinergic drugs on pain, appetite and central nervous system diseases.

Makriyannis invited the delegates to return to Boston to collaborate with Northeastern. “I’ve been in Boston for six and a half years and I’m happy here,” he told them. “Northeastern is an excellent place.”

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