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‘Genome’ project to build UAE genetic databank

DHA’s proposal for 10X initiative will be able to predict diseases, personalise treatment

Gulf News

Dubai: The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has proposed its ‘Genome’ project for the Dubai 10X initiative.

‘Genome’ uses gene scanning to detect changes in the genes, chromosomes, and proteins that can lead to genetic diseases, allowing researchers to prevent and eradicate chronic diseases and cancer. It can also reduce the financial burden of treating chronic diseases, in addition to slowing down the ageing process.

“The [DHA] is looking to target all residents of the emirate of Dubai with this ground-breaking project, focusing on UAE nationals in the first phase of implementation,” said Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, DHA director-general. Dubai 10X is a venture overseen by the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF).

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of DFF’s board of trustees, launched the ‘2.0’ phase of Dubai 10X at the World Government Summit in Dubai earlier this month. Dubai 10X seeks to place Dubai and its government entities 10 years ahead of the rest of the world in all sectors, by implementing today what other cities around the world will be implementing 10 years from now.

Shaikh Hamdan adopted 26 projects presented by 24 government departments.

“The project’s timetable extends over 24 months, during which we will be collecting samples, analysing DNA sequences, and recording the results in the data bank. The following phase involves automated learning and artificial intelligence to issue reports that support research, forecast future disorders and epidemics, and plan preventive measures.”

He added: “Forming genome laboratories in Dubai signals a new phase, where our forecasts for the future of the health and medical services sector begin to materialise. The labs will establish the first national genetic database for future research, lending support to decision-makers as they set plans and strategies for the future of the health care sector. This, in turn, ensures Dubai’s global competitiveness and strengthens the knowledge economy.”

Al Qutami said: “When His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Dubai 10X initiative and directed Dubai Government agencies to apply today what other cities will implement 10 years from now, he effectively reinvented government operations, steering them away from repetitive everyday tasks, and towards future successes and sustainable development.

“Inspired by the vision and guidance of [Shaikh Mohammad], the [DHA] is determined to play its part in ensuring the prosperity of our country.”

The DHA is dedicating resources to implement Genome, mandating a number of its affiliate organisations to carry out its execution, such as the Department of Pathology and Genetics, and the Dubai Cord Blood and Research Centre, among others.

It has also formed a committee of genetics experts, benefited from prominent international studies and experiments, and outlined potential challenges and solutions to overcome them.

Khalfan Bel Houl, CEO of DFF, said: “There is a significant shift sweeping across businesses, sectors and institutions in Dubai. The Dubai 10X initiative has provided unprecedented models for a new generation of government services that will lead the world. The emirate has already surpassed its competition with regards to studying the human genome, owing to DHA’s project, which further cements Dubai’s global competitiveness and leadership in the health care sector.”

Dubai’s ‘Genome’ project

Massive genomic databank to cover citizens and residents

DNA sequencing (genome mapping) for entire population

Predict diseases before they occur using artificial intelligence

Personalised treatment for every patient

Project’s timetable extends over 24 months

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