Dr Abdulla Ibrahim Al Khayat (right), CEO of Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in Dubai, with Susan Tousi, chief commercial officer of Illumina, at the signing ceremony Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Marking World Children’s Day (November 20), Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in Dubai signed an agreement with Illumina, a global leader in genomics, that will see the two parties collaborate on the UAE’s first study to assess the impact of rapid genomic diagnostics on critically ill children within the region who may be diagnosed with a genetic disorder.

The collaboration centres around a two-year study at Al Jalila Children’s aimed at providing medical insights into the clinical use of rapid whole genome sequencing (rWGS) in the neonatal and paediatric care units as well as establishing it as a standard of care and first-tier comprehensive diagnostic tool for critically ill infants across the Middle East.

“This is an important partnership that could lead to significant breakthroughs in the way critically ill patients in the Middle East are treated,” said Dr Abdulla Ibrahim Al Khayat, CEO of Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital.

“The agreement demonstrates our intent to work with the best in the genome sector and leverage state-of-the-art technologies to help these genetically under-represented patients and their families from across the region.”

The study, which will begin before the end of 2022, will see Illumina – an American biotechnology company founded in 1998 and headquartered in California – supporting the study by providing sequencing reagents and analytical tools for rapid whole genome sequencing.

The study will comprise 200 children under the age of 18, including infants, as well as parents (for segregation analysis). All will be tested over the course of 24 months and half of the patients are expected to be Emiratis.

Dr Ahmad Abou Tayoun, who is the principal investigator leading the study at Al Jalila Children’s, said: “The results are mainly aimed at determining the impact of rapid whole genome sequencing findings on the clinical diagnosis and management of patients, including their length of stay, changes in management or treatment, additional interventions, and the elimination of extra diagnostic workloads. A secondary aim includes assessing the cost impact of rWGS – for instance, whether it leads to shorter hospital stays and the elimination of some diagnostics or management workloads.”

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Accredited centre

Al Jalila Children’s Genomics Centre has received CAP accreditation, a recognition that certifies its laboratory operates with the highest standards of quality, accuracy, and consistency. The state-of-the-art centre provides genomic testing and counselling for children and adults alike. With its diagnostics laboratory and a fully equipped clinic, in addition to a team of board-certified experts in precision medicine, the centre offers the regional community specialised genetic counselling to support patients, families, and other doctors.

“We are delighted to work with Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital to show the value of rapid whole genome sequencing in accelerating the time to definitive diagnosis for critically-ill children with suspected genetic disease, and in improving patient outcomes,” said Susan Tousi, chief commercial officer of Illumina.

“We are committed to increasing genomic capability in the UAE – our recently opened Dubai Solutions Centre houses the latest sequencing technologies to provide even more support for our customers in the region, helping them deliver genomic precision medicine to an increasing number of patients.”