Dubai: A cabinet minister on Monday urged international scientists to discover better drugs with fewer undesirable side effects to improve the quality of health around the globe.

"Today, too many of our world's citizens are faced with problems of obesity, heart disease, cancer and communicable and infectious diseases," said Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, on Monday.

Inaugurating an international conference on drug discovery and therapy, he said the diseases are caused by poverty, poor eating habits, lack of clean water and healthy foods, and are also genetically related.

"Drug design and discovery is a global issue and nations all over the world share the same challenges and concerns that surround this important topic," he said in his address to Nobel Laureates, clinical researchers and pharmacologists.

Leading scientists will discuss the latest global breakthroughs in drug discovery and therapeutic research during the four-day conference at Dubai Men's College in Academic City.

Welcoming the delegates Shaikh Nahyan told the scientists: "We are a country committed to building a knowledge society where ideas drive economic success and help effect positive change."

Professor Atta ur Rahman, co-president of the conference, said truth has become stranger than fiction today, pointing to some of the scientific advances made in various fields.

"You now have car polymers, where dents repair themselves and cars that run on compressed air. And airplanes that run on oxygen taken from the stratosphere," he said.

Shaikh Nahyan noted that new drugs currently in clinical trials are less likely to use the ‘one-treatment fits all' approach. "Instead they are carefully targeted to the molecular fingerprints of specific diseases," he said.

Guest: Star presence

Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt created a mild stir at this gathering of scientists when he arrived at the venue by the side of Shaikh Nahyan. Groups of Indian women crowded around him and took pictures.

"I am a guest of Shaikh Nahyan," Dutt told Gulf News. Sources said the actor is shooting an action movie which also stars Robert De Niro and Amitabh Bachchan. The movie centres on the legendary diamond the Kohinoor. The producer and director is Robert Cohen, whose work includes The Witches of Eastwick and The Fast and the Furious.