Rare Daily Staff

The United Arab Emirates has launched the Center for Genomic Discovery, a first-of-its kind center in the UAE to help diagnose and treat patients with genetic disorders, enhance local genomic research, and train the country’s next generation of scientists.

The center has been made possible through the creation of a scientific and clinical interdisciplinary ecosystem by Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital (AJCH) through its Al Jalila Genomics Center.

It will seek to engage undiagnosed pediatric patients with suspected hereditary disorders whose clinical genomic testing at Al Jalila Children’s—such as whole-exome sequencing and chromosomal microarrays—failed to identify any definitive genetic causes. Researchers will then analyze the patients’ negative genetic data for any possible novel findings. The main goal will be to make novel genetic discoveries in the pediatric patient population in the UAE and the region and leverage these discoveries to develop new diagnostic tools and uncover personalized pathways to restore ‘normal’ phenotypes in affected patients.

The launch coincides with the formation of the Board of Emirati Genome Program to oversee and guide the implementation of the Emirati Genome Program in the country’s healthcare system.

“These are life-changing outcomes that underline the power of research and the role of MBRU and our academic health system partners as research-intensive institutes,” said Amer Sharif, vice chancellor of MBRU and member of the Board of Emirati Genome Program. “The establishment of the Center of Genomic Discovery through an integrated academic health system will allow us to innovate in genomics application and gene discovery. This will also enable us to realize our vision of advancing health through cutting-edge academic research and nurturing future scientists serving individuals and communities in the UAE and the region.”

The Center for Genetic Discovery has already begun investigations into the cause of a genetic disease in one family within the UAE with promising progress. At least one novel gene has been identified by whole-exome sequencing.

Photo: Amer Sharif, vice chancellor of MBRU and member of the Board of Emirati Genome Program

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