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CommunityHealthGetting to the UAE’s genetics baseline

The Emirati Genome Program will allow medical researchers to better understand genetic illnesses and offer more precise, customized treatments.
Anna PukasMay 24, 20215 min
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Emirati Genome Program(from back, left) Safeya Abdulazeez Almqtri, Mubadala Health’s director of operations and execution, Dr Fahed Al Marzooqi, G42 Healthcare COO, Dr Emad George, Medical Director at Mubadala Health’s ICLDC, and Dr Ahmad Al Awadhi, Community Outreach Director at G42 Healthcare, view a demonstration of the procedure of collecting samples from an Emirati volunteer.

The Emirati Genome Program is being expanded with the addition of four more DNA sample collection centers, bringing the UAE closer to becoming a world leader in precision medicine and preventative healthcare.

The Department of Health in Abu Dhabi is partnering with G42, the Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and healthcare company, in the drive to collect, analyze and sequence the nation’s DNA. Samples have already been collected from 1,000 UAE nationals but sequencing is now being extended to the wider Emirati population.

The collected DNA enables scientists to study the genetic make-up of the Emirati population. The Genome Program has already identified the Emirati genome, which is used as a reference or baseline, enabling medical researchers to better predict, prevent and treat diseases and thereby improve healthcare now and for future generations.

Understanding the genetic variation in the Arab population is a challenge due to the lack of a high-quality genome as a baseline reference. The Emirati Genome Program aims to produce a reference genome that is specific to UAE citizens. It also positions Abu Dhabi as a hub for innovation in tailor-made healthcare.

This ground-breaking program, which was launched in December 2019, aims to be the first of its kind worldwide to provide citizens with their own high quality genome as a baseline and incorporate genomic data into healthcare management. Advanced sequencing technology is used to generate the highest quality, most comprehensive genome data, which is analyzed by G42‘s Artemis, one of the world’s top supercomputers.

The new collection sites are located in four healthcare facilities operated by Mubadala: Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Capital Health Screening Centre, Healthpoint and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The new additions bring the total of collection sites to 18 across Abu Dhabi.

“We are delighted to be supporting the Emirati Genome Program, which promises to have an enormous impact on the future of our healthcare sector,” said Hasan Jasem Al Nowais, CEO of Mubadal Health.

The Emirati Genome Program will help medical professionals better understand genetic illnesses, develop more precise and customized medical treatment, leading to a more “robust” healthcare system, said Ashish Koshy, CEO of G42 Healthcare.

He added, “The more participants the program has, the more comprehensive and valuable the research data becomes.”

• Anyone wishing to take part in the Emirati Genome Program can visit any branch of the medical establishments mentioned above, where they will be supported by an on site team of experts. For more information, go to  www.emiratigenomeprogram.ae or call by 800 UAE GENOME.

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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