In a regional first, Qatar has embarked on a major initiative to establish a world-class biomedical research programme with the aim of 120 scientists, technicians and support staff in place within five years, details of which were presented at the Arab Health exhibition in Dubai today.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), bringing together institutions with overlapping missions in education, research and healthcare.

It draws on the strengths of organisations in the Qatar healthcare sector such as Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra Medical and Research Centre. It also aims to create a conduit for the commercialisation of discoveries through the Qatar Science and Technology Park.

Under the banner of Leading the Change, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, is one of a consortium of leading medical and educational institutions and organisations from Qatar, headed by the Ministry of Health, which is mounting the biggest pavilion of any Gulf country at the Arab Health exhibition from 26-29 January 2009.

“The programme aims to form a bio-medical research infrastructure, developing a scientific and technical workforce for the benefit of the region at large,” said Dr Javaid Sheikh, interim Dean of WCMC-Q. “The programme will also support high quality research in the fields of genetic and molecular medicine, women’s and children’s health, gene therapy, stem cells, and vaccine development.”

In five years, approximately 120 people will be involved in the programme aimed at establishing a critical mass to give Qatar a sustainable scientific research community. These include principal investigators, post doctorates, technicians, administrative staff for shared use core facilities, clinical and translational investigators and clinical research support staff.

“Bio-medical research will play a vital role in the development of research capability as demonstrated by a commitment to allocate 2.8% of Qatar’s GDP to research each year,” said Dr Sheikh.

He added that two proof of concept projects had already begun. “The first compares variations in gene expression levels in the airways of smokers and non-smokers,” he said. “The second assesses the clinical care of diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses in Qatar. In addition, we have initiated the process of developing core capabilities in our research laboratories, including the genomics and proteomics cores, computational biology and biostatistics core, a vivarium, a microscopy core, and a basic laboratory support core.

“This major programme takes bio-medical research to new levels. As we initiate this world-class research programme, our focus will be on developing sustainable local research capacity while targeting the disease areas important in the Gulf, namely diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

“We have established two broad research themes: a genetic and molecular medicine research programme with a focus on personalised medicine, gene therapy for cancer and stem cell research; and a women and children’s health research programme with a focus on maternal fetal medicine and neurogenetic disorders of the newborn.

“I am particularly excited to be part of such a strong commitment to the future of the country as it aspires to become a center of excellence for research in the region.”

WCMC-Q is the first American medical college graduating doctors outside of the United States and is a leading player in the development of Qatar’s healthcare sector by providing the next generation of doctors in the country, preparing them to be physicians, biomedical researchers and medical educators.

For more details of Qatar’s Leading the Change strategy, please visit the Qatar Pavilion at Arab Health in the Zabeel Hall, (stand ZW20) Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre from 26-29 January 2009.

UAE Daily News

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