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Al Jalila Foundation grants Dh2.5 million to five scientists for COVID-19 research in the field of genetics, therapies and diagnosis. Image Credit:

Dubai: Charting new research territories for COVID-19, five UAE researchers have won a seed grant of a total of Dh2.3 million.

The grant which is the first of its kind grant for research in COVID-19 to be initiated in Dubai was announced on Monday, by the leading Dubai-based organisation the Al Jalila Foundation. The COVID-19 research grants have been awarded in the field of genetics, therapies and diagnosis and were carried out under the auspices of the recently inaugurated Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Research Institute to help enhance the UAE’s capacity to address the pandemic and other viral diseases in the future.

UAE leaders laud the research initiative

The research awards were presented by Shaikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, during a ceremony at Al Jalila Foundation.

The award recipients are highly talented scientists from some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the UAE including United Arab Emirates University, University of Sharjah, Al Ain University and Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital.

During the event, Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Al Jalila Foundation, said the Foundation’s efforts to advance medical research supports the UAE leadership’s vision for the future of health care and the high priority they place on scientific and medical fields.

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Economic challenges

“At a time when the world is racing against time to find solutions for eradicating the virus, well-funded research efforts are critical to mitigate current and future health and economic challenges,” said Shaikh Ahmed.

Praising the efforts of the foundation Shaikh Mansoor appreciated the efforts of the researchers who received grants for their commitment to advancing research to combat COVID-19.

“Exploring new possibilities and breakthrough discoveries in health care and medical sectors is key to the UAE’s and Dubai’s efforts to create future-ready economic and social systems that are geared to meeting the evolving needs of a post-COVID world,” he said

Research grants reflect the needs of the times

Dr Raja Al Gurg, Member of the Board of Trustees of Al Jalila Foundation and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Al Jalila Foundation, commented: “By supporting talented scientists and investing in research, we are developing the next generation of innovators in health sciences and paving the way for medical breakthroughs to save lives.” Out of 91 applications, five were selected to receive grants of up to Dh500,000 each.

Post COVID-19 outbreak needs investment in research

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, added: “The COVID-19 global outbreak has amplified the need to invest in pioneering medical research. Now, more than ever, we are counting on scientists and doctors to come together to develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and gain a better understanding of the coronavirus and other viral diseases. We are delighted with the incredible response we have received from the scientific community and confident about the contributions this round of research grants can make to support the fight to combat COVID-19.”

Summary of research projects

Diagnosis

Dr Farah Mustafa, from United Arab Emirates University: This research aims to characterise the micro RNAs induced during different stages of COVID-19 as biomarkers for better diagnosis, disease prognosis, and development of novel RNA-based therapies against COVID-19.

Genetics

Professor Rabih Halwani, from University of Sharjah: This research is focused on determining inborn errors of immunity associated with life-threatening COVID-19 infections in previously healthy young individuals.

Dr Ahmad Abou Tayoun, from Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, is studying the genetics of COVID-19 in children and young adults in the UAE.

Therapies

Professor Taleb H Al-Tel, from University of Sharjah. His research aims to develop a novel and nature-inspired therapeutics for the treatment of COVID-19 by inhibiting the proteins and enzymes of the virus that are responsible for host-cells entry and for the replication of the virus inside the human cells.

Dr Mohammad Ghattas, from Al Ain University is fussing on discovering new drug candidates as potential treatments for COVID-19 via targeting the main protease enzyme (Mpro) of the virus.