Al Jalila Foundation-1651152348739
Al Jalila Foundation. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, announced that it will establish the UAE’s first robotic biobank, in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). The collaboration is set to advance medical research in the areas of genetic disorders, cancer and other chronic diseases and pandemics.

Set to open in 2023 with a capacity to manage seven million specimens, the biobank will be one of the world’s largest in terms of sample capacity. The facility will be located at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Research Institute, part of Al Jalila Foundation, in Dubai Healthcare City.

Due to the vital role biobanks play in progressing research and advancing medical discovery, the biobank will become an indispensable resource for the new Hamdan Bin Rashid Cancer Charity Hospital and other health-care facilities in the UAE to conduct research and offer effective treatment.

‘Strengthening capabilities of health-care sector’

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Al Jalila Foundation Board of Trustees, said: “Access to genetic and imaging data through biobanks is driving forward pioneering approaches to analysis that would have been impossible just a few years ago. The launch of the UAE’s first robotic biobank reflects Dubai’s commitment to strengthening the capabilities of the health-care sector and advancing efforts to improve people’s health. The biobank will serve as a major contributor to the advancement of modern medicine and will enable scientific discoveries that will help enhance the health and wellbeing of the community.”

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum-1651152350763
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Image Credit: Supplied

A biobank is a place to store all types of human biological samples, such as blood, tissue, cells, or body fluids. It also stores data related to the samples as well as other biomolecular resources that can be used in health research. Biobanks have become an important resource in medical research, supporting many types of contemporary research like genomics and personalised medicine and the development of diagnostics and therapeutics.

‘Game-changer for health care’

Al Jalila Foundation is investing Dh17 million to build a state-of-the-art facility and will manage seven million human biological materials. An automated, robotic, Artificial Intelligence based system will ensure biological samples are secured in cryogenic storage (below 80 degrees Celsius), maintaining proper sample integrity and retrieval.

Dr Raja Easa Al Gurg

Dr Raja Easa Al Gurg, chairperson of Al Jalila Foundation Board of Directors and Member of the Board of Trustees, said: “Biobanking is a game changer for health care and will revolutionise medical research, leading to better outcomes for patient treatment. The biobank will provide an opportunity for people in the community and researchers to work together to build a better, healthier future for generations to come. Scientific progress will shape the nation’s economy by influencing our knowledge about human health, disease, therapeutics, personalised medicine, and more.”

‘Finding better therapeutics and diagnostics’

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “Biorepositories are places where you can store patient samples and really serve as a hub of collaboration between scientists for doing either population health studies, or looking at cohorts of patients who have specific diseases, and trying to find better therapeutics and diagnostics to treat patients and save lives.”

Patient confidentiality will be a priority in line with UAE’s laws and regulations. The biological and medical data will be used by scientists for research to make new discoveries about common and life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke in order to improve public health.

Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali

Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, deputy director-general of the Dubai Health Authority, said: “The establishment of the robotic biobank is a clear reflection of Dubai’s vision for advancing health care and being at the forefront of discovery. I am confident the planned biobank will bring significant value to the healthcare system in Dubai and the region. It is a clear example of how the integration of care with discovery, supported by advancement, can set the foundation for better outcomes for our current and future patients.”

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Strategic collaboration opportunities

The UAE’s first robotic biobank will attract strategic collaboration opportunities with key healthcare authorities and partners across the region and globally. The collaborations will support pioneering biomedical research and accelerate medical discoveries to transform patients’ lives.

It will operate in the best practices in biobanking and adhere to the highest compliance regulations and ethical standards for the collection, processing, storage and analysis of biological samples and data for research into genetic and environmental factors that impact on human health and disease.