Abu Dhabi’s New Genome Program: Betting on Tailored Health

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As part of its endeavour to provide world-class healthcare, on December 10 2019, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH) announced a national program to use large-scale genomic data with the aim of allowing doctors working in the Emirate to provide more personalized and preventive treatment.

 

The Genome Program will enhance our knowledge of citizen’s genomes and establish a strong foundation of health and well-being

Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohamed Al Hamed, Abu Dhabi DoH

The program, simply named Genome Program, aims to be the first of its kind globally to provide citizens with their own genome as a baseline and incorporate genomic data into healthcare management. In order to provide advanced diagnosis and treatment options, samples will be collected from Emiratis to create a database. The data can be scanned to detect changes in genes, chromosomes and proteins that can lead to genetic diseases, allowing doctors to get ahead of the illness.

 

The program intends to address one of the major challenges facing healthcare in the UAE: the understanding of genetic variation in the Arab population, which the Abu Dhabi DoH has labelled a major challenge due to the lack of high-quality Emirati reference genome. This position is shared by Maryam Matar of the United Arab Emirates Genetic Diseases Association (UAEGDA), who recently told PharmaBoardroom that the UAEGDA’s research has revealed that ethnicity plays an important role in mutation of the genes and that there has not yet been a fair representation of the UAE’s native ethnicity in worldwide primary research samples.

 

The chairman of the Abu Dhabi DoH, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohamed Al Hamed, explained in a press release that two of the world’s most promising technologies, DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence (AI), will come together in the program. “The Genome Program will enhance our knowledge of citizen’s genomes and establish a strong foundation of health and well-being,” he said.

 

In order to analyze the massive amount of data and generate new insights, the program will use one of the world’s top supercomputers, Abu Dhabi-based Group 42’s Artemis. The program will be led by the Abu Dhabi DoH and executed and delivered by Group 42 in collaboration with global genome sequencing leaders BGI and Oxford Nanopore Technologies.


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