Qatar set to become bio-medical research hub

qatar-technology-parkDOHA: Qatar has embarked on the development of a world-class bio-medical research hub that addresses significant health challenges in the region.

Focusing to address some of the most significant diseases and disorders that are prevalent Qatar, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, neurogenetic abnormalities, and respiratory disorders, the Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC-Q) will collaborate with Qatar Foundation, Hamad Medical Corporation, Supreme Council of Health, Sidra Medical and Research Centre, Qatar Science and Technology Park and WCMC- New York to create a mass of research scholars over the coming years.

“WCMC-Q plays a crucial role in creating a culture of research in Qatar. We are showing the rest of the world that Qatar intends to become a research hub for the region and is making progress on its long term goal,” said Dr Fathy Saoud, president of Qatar Foundation.

With more than $19m from Qatar Foundation’s National Priorities Research Programme, WCMC-Q has begun outfitting six new laboratories to investigate causes and treatments for diseases prevalent in the region. With Qatar Foundation’s Undergraduate Research Experience Programme, nearly 50 WCMC-Q students are investigating topics such as the molecular and genetic basis of breast cancer and bone formation and barriers to early cancer screening in Arab women.

Dr Antonio M Gotto, Dean of WCMC-New York said, “Impressive progress has already been made in starting this programme and I am delighted Qatar Foundation and WCMC will be involved as partners long term. Together with my colleagues in the United States, we look forward to helping the country establish itself as a major center for biomedical research.”

The Research Programme will have two broad themes based on Genetic and Molecular Medicine, and Women and Children’s Health. “We will recruit six senior and 12 junior Qatar research faculties to help with the research programmes. Four New York-based experts will provide mentorship to, and collaborate closely with, Junior Qatar Research Faculty in Doha to develop specific research projects to enable a quick launch of the Research Programme,” Dr Gotto said.

The genetic and molecular medicine research will initially include a study on diabetes and cardiovascular disease led by Dr. Ronald Crystal. The major goal is to develop laboratory, clinical research and human infrastructure at WCMC-Q to carry out independent, high-quality genetic medicine studies in Doha.

The second project in this area will be in Stem Cell Research led by Dr Shahin Rafii. The aim of this project is to facilitate the establishment of independent stem cell research laboratories in Doha. These laboratories will have the technology to derive, expand and maintain, and validate new human embryonic and spermatogonial stem cells.

The programme in women and children’s health has been developed to improve the quality of life of all Qataris by raising the level of knowledge and care of these two groups. Two specific research projects will be launched initially under this category.

One will be Neurogenetic Disorders study by Dr Margaret Ross. The goal of this project will be to establish accurate rates of neurogenetic disorders in at risk Qatari populations and delineate the genetic basis of these maladies. This should lead to improved prenatal diagnosis and optimised prevention strategies including folic acid and other supplements in at risk pregnant women.

Particle Vaccine Development led by Dr Anne Moscona is another of the initial projects. The goal of this project will be to establish an acute respiratory infections laboratory in Qatar; to develop vaccines for use against a wide variety of pathogens; and, to increase the flexibility of responses to new organisms and thereby the ability to respond quickly to an urgent need for vaccines against a growing number of emerging pathogens.

WCMC-Q will also develop and operate a Translational Investigator Training Programme to provide training in putting the researches in to clinical practices. A Clinical Investigator Training Programme will be established to provide training in clinical research to clinicians in Doha.

To promote WCMC-Q’s emerging Research Programme and expose potential recruits to the opportunities in Qatar’s nascent research enterprise, bi-annual two-day International Conferences will be organised

“In just over a year, our biomedical research program has moved from vision to reality,” said Dr Javaid Sheikh, interim dean,WCMC-Q. “Our laboratories are staffed with first rate scientists, excellent post-doctoral fellows, technicians and administrators. They are generating knowledge that will help us improve health care in Qatar, the Gulf Region and around the world and help create a sustainable local research community.”