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CommunityExpertEmirati scientist published in renowned science journal

Biochemist Dr Saif Al Qassim is the first Emirati scientist to be published in the highly prestigious journal, Nature Communications
Anna PukasFebruary 7, 20214 min
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Dr Saif Al QassimDr Saif Al Qassim has become the first Emirati scientist to be featured in Nature Communications/Image courtesy Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences

A scientist at Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences has had research published in the prestigious international scientific journal Nature Communications.

Dr Saif Al Qassim, assistant professor of biochemistry at the university in Dubai, conducted a study into dynein, a family of molecular motor proteins that are responsible for transporting various cellular cargo.

Dynein plays an important part in infection as viruses hijack it to replicate. The malfunction of dynein is linked to developmental and degenerative disorders in the nervous system. Dr Al Qassim’s research is deemed highly significant for understanding molecular function in the context of disease and infection, which in turn is important for developing drugs and treatment.

It’s a subject very much at the forefront of the race to develop vaccines against the coronavirus.

Dr Al Qassim earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan and went on to do his PhD and post-doctoral studies at the renowned Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he was the first Emirati to be trained in structural biology and biophysical chemistry.

He returned to the UAE in 2014 and the following year was appointed visiting assistant professor of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania, where his co-researchers are based. He took up his present post at MBRU in 2017.

Nature Communications is one of the most distinguished — and selective — peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world, accepting less than eight percent of the material submitted for publication.

Dr Al Qassim said he was honored to be part of a research project that “will provide a solid foundation” for the development of treatments for a variety of diseases. He is also “immensely grateful to MBRU for the faith shown in me and encouragement in this research journey.”

He wants to continue research in the UAE to “help advance health care in our country and the region”.

Dr Amer Sharif, Vice Chancellor of MBRU, described Dr Al Qassim’s research as “innovative” and said it would have “a far-reaching impact in medical science.”

“We hope that the publication of this study in this distinguished journal will serve as a catalyst for the UAE’s research community to aim higher and encourage collaborations with researchers at elite medical and scientific institutions across the world.”

Editor’s note: This story has been amended to reflect that Dr Al Qassim is not the first Emirati to have research published in Nature. 

Anna Pukas

Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.

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