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Sanctions have forced Iran to build a substantial, largely self-sufficient drug production infrastructure. Some 60 plants produce almost 40 billion drug units each year, meeting 96% of domestic demand. Research and development focuses mainly on new generic drugs, although investment in novel products is increasing: 12 new treatments for diseases including cancer and diabetes were launched in 2015, for example. Iran’s biotechnology capabilities are also improving. The country is queueing among the world's leading nation as for stem-cell research and has a considerable infrastructure of related facilities, e.g. for plasmapheresis (blood plasma treatment). The biggest biopharmaceutical company, CinnaGen, produces Biosimilars of leading immunology and cancer drugs, among others, and invests 20% of revenues in R&D. In a nod to the global trend of establishing biotechnology hubs, Iran is also building a government-backed USD 2 billion "Industrial Pharmaceutical City" near Tehran. It will house incubators and startups under the same roof as research labs and biotech producers. Foreign investors will be exempted from taxes and it is hoped the venture will attract international experts.


Some 80% of Iranians receive a secondary education, and the literacy rate is more than 98%, according to the UN. When it comes to science and medicine, its high standards of education appear to be paying off. In 2012, the science database Scopus ranked Iran 17th in the world in terms of output of scientific papers, and it was 23rd in terms of highly cited medical articles in 2011. This indicates a significant research base, as evidenced by internationally recognized biomedical centers such as the Pasteur Institute of Iran. In 2014, there were 0.93 physicians per 1,000 people according to BMI Research, about 2.5 times less than the US but more than South Africa. However, Iran has suffered from a brain drain in the recent years mainly because of low domestic incomes and market challenges.


Reference: January 2017 ROLAND BERGER