Dubai: In line with its core mandate to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, Aspire, the technology programme management arm of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), is funding three Virtual Research Institutes (VRIs) in Abu Dhabi Universities. The cumulative more-than Dh200 million funding across five years marks a significant investment in research and innovation development and it highlights the commitment of Abu Dhabi Government to build world-class research in priority sectors for the emirate.
Two of the funded VRIs will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). The Abu Dhabi Precision Medicine Virtual Research Institute (ADPMVRI), led by Professor Milos Ljubisavljevic, hub director, is focused on transforming biotechnology research in Abu Dhabi to ensure a positive and sustainable impact on health care through increasing longevity and enhancing the quality of life. The VRI will partner with Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi and Cleveland Clinic, as well collaborate with Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the University of North Carolina, among others.
Customised diagnosis, prognosis and treatment
The proposed VRI seeks to drive home the urgent need for a holistic health-care system focused on precision medicine — whereby diagnosis, prognosis and treatment are customised to meet individual patient need based on scientific principles. In partnership with Abu Dhabi Health Authority (Seha), the VRI will develop a set of research projects that address the major diseases and drive the improvement of clinical care in Abu Dhabi.
Hosted at UAEU, the second VRI — Abu Dhabi International Virtual Research Institute for Food Security in the Drylands (ADIVRIFSD), led by hub director Dr Elke Neumann, aims to achieve food security in arid regions. The VRI will team up with Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi Agriculture, Food Safety Authority, the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi, as well as University of California, Davis and Wageningen University to contribute to innovations of significance in protected urban plant cultivation, urban agroforestry, aquaculture, insect and algae farming.
Forecast future consumer needs
In addition, the VRI’s activities will create cutting-edge data platforms and simulation tools to track animal and food-borne diseases and antimicrobial resistances, as well as forecast future consumer needs and trends across global and national food markets.
The third VRI, with a focus on sustainable energy production, storage, and utilisation, is to be hosted by Khalifa University and will develop advanced renewable energy and sustainable technologies. The VRI will collaborate with New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi University, as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology, among other international entities.
‘Shaping tomorrow’s scientific leaders’
Led by Dr Samuel Mao, hub director, the VRI will lead to policy recommendations that promote Abu Dhabi as a pioneer in energy sustainability.
Speaking on the VRI Programme funding, Dr Arthur Morrish, CEO of Aspire, said: “We are pleased to collaborate with Abu Dhabi’s universities that are key incubators for our next generation of local talent and help shape tomorrow’s scientific leaders. With the growing focus on sustainability in all spheres of life today, we are now able to support world-leading research in these priority areas.”
Dr Ray O. Johnson, CEO, TII, said: “We are proud to contribute to boosting Abu Dhabi’s leadership and reputation in agricultural innovation, sustainable energy practices, and food safety.
"The proposed VRIs will significantly contribute to improving the emirate’s excellent health-care system, find new strategies to ensure food safety and implement schemes to bring about sustainable change through renewable energy.”