Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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QF placing Qatar at epicentre of global biomedical research

QF placing Qatar at epicentre of global biomedical research

Tribune News Network
For centuries, clinical research has paved the way for the colossal evolution that medicine has undergone. For instance, the first time ether anaesthesia was used in 1846. It gave people the option of being sedated, effectively sparing them the agony of surgery without it. Further research ultimately led to the widespread use of the anaesthetics that we are familiar with today.
Moving into the present day, Qatar Foundation (QF) is playing a key role in ensuring that this tradition of scientific discovery in the sphere of health is continued through research that is focused on fields where the outcome and benefit will be directly felt within Qatar’s community, and beyond.
One such project by a research team at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q), a QF partner university, has explored links between Type 2 diabetes and breast cancer. After a review of over 200 studies, the team found that women with diabetes not only appear to have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, but that diabetes also supports breast cancer progression and can negatively impact the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies. This breakthrough potentially paves the way for further research into better treatment avenues for women suffering from both diabetes and breast cancer.
While some QF research is directed towards understanding the intricacies of disease and the corresponding therapy, it is also conducting extensive work to better understand the genetics of the Qatari and Arab populations, helping to develop personalised treatments tailored to the characteristics of the region’s population, targeting the most prevalent diseases with greater precision.
In this area of health science, one of QF’s initiatives is the development of the first Qatar gene chip, known as the ‘Q-Chip’. Qatar Genome Programme and Qatar Biobank – both members of QF – have partnered with the Department of Genetic Medicine at WCM-Q for the project. The partnership also includes the Diagnostic Genomic Division at Hamad Medical Corporation, as well as the research team at QF member Sidra Medicine, a state-of-the-art healthcare facility that encompasses innovative biomedical and clinical research and discovery.
The chip will contain gene variants specific to the Qatari population, identified through the sequencing and genetic screening of thousands of Qatari citizens.
In her speech at the recent grand opening of Sidra Medicine, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation, announced the completion of the first phase of the Qatar Genome Project, which has completed the genome sequencing of 10,000 Qataris, and the development of the ‘Q-Chip’.
Sidra Medicine’s own research programme is currently focusing on identifying disease components specific to the people of Qatar, with, according to Professor Christ of von Kalle, chief research officer, Sidra Medicine, a strong commitment to producing research that can directly translate into better treatment outcomes for patients and their families.
He said, “Working with local and international partners, we are committed to a common goal to foster a unique environment of collaboration and learning that will help us pioneer innovative scientific and clinical programmes for the benefit of the people of Qatar, the Middle East region and beyond. This is what forms the foundation of our journey to
personalised medicine.
“We are undertaking an extensive study to understand the biochemical and genetic causes of diabetes mellitus in every child in Qatar. Understanding this will help us to pioneer personalised treatments for all children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, with the aim of improving the quality of life of these patients.”
“Another area of priority research for Sidra Medicine is genomic research. From a medical perspective, this will help both in terms of diagnostic accuracy and by improving predictive clinical decision-making frameworks for rare and complex disorders in the country,” he said.
Research can also often lead to the discovery of more cost-effective – but still medically effective – testing methods for existing diseases and disorders, providing the community with more accessible options. A multidisciplinary team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a QF partner university, has proven this by developing an inexpensive test to screen for sickle cell anaemia, utilising a tool used for genome editing to help screen for carriers of the disorder.
The technology developed by the team at CMU-Q uses a small robotic device to detect the presence of the sickle cell anaemia gene in the DNA in saliva samples, accompanied by a mobile app to help interpret the results.
Not only is the research conducted at QF’s entities – also including the work of Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, part of QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University – at the forefront of medical science in the region, it is continually expanding the possibilities for healthcare and identifying new avenues of discovery which can ultimately improve people’s lives.


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