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22 June 2024

Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed chairs Emirates Genome Council meeting, approves framework for advancing personalised and preventive medicine

Published
By WAM

H.H. Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, has chaired the meeting of the Emirates Genome Council.

During the meeting, the board reviewed the progress of strategic initiatives including the completion of the ground-breaking Emirati Reference Genome Study, which has revealed more than five million novel gene variants.

The results of the study will significantly enhance understanding of the local population and have the potential to reshape knowledge of genetic associations with disorders.

H.H. Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed approved the launch of the Emirati Reference Genome Platform, which will make the data from the Emirati Reference Genome Study accessible to clinicians and researchers, helping them to identify genetic risk factors.

The board also reviewed progress of the Emirati Genome Programme, which has collected more than 600,000 samples to date, reaching a significant 60 percent of its target of one million samples.

H.H. Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Emirates Genome Council, highlighted that the advances being made as part of the National Genome Strategy and the UAE’s growing genomics R&D ecosystem are reinforcing the UAE’s position as a global hub for genomic research and innovation.

H.H. also emphasised the leadership’s ongoing commitment to investing in strategic genomics and precision medicine initiatives to enhance the community’s wellbeing and further enhance public health in the UAE.

During the meeting, Sheikh Khaled also approved a framework to further advance personalised and preventive medicine across the UAE by enhancing the use of genome research and studies to design personalised and precision healthcare solutions for UAE Nationals. The framework will also support the development of an integrated preventive healthcare ecosystem that focuses on genetic diseases and uses advanced AI technologies to accelerate diagnostic and treatment solutions.

H.H. reviewed the findings of the ground-breaking Emirati Reference Genome Study, which was conducted by Khalifa University for Science and Technology, in collaboration with Department of Health - Abu Dhabi, as well as the Dubai Health Authority, Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, UAE University, the University of Sharjah, New York University Abu Dhabi, the University of Leubeck in Germany, and M42.

Utilising 50,000 genetic samples, the study has discovered 5,296,683 novel gene variants, constituting 12 per cent of previously undiscovered unique variants in the Emirati genome. These findings significantly enhance understanding of the local population and have the potential to reshape knowledge of genetic associations with disorders, unlock new insights into pharmacogenomics, and pave the way for transformative advancements in various research areas.

This study is the first of its kind specifically tailored for the region and ethnic background, as 90 per cent of genomic studies worldwide are currently based on European backgrounds. It stands out globally not just for its innovative sequencing approach but also for ensuring thorough genomic coverage across various population subgroups.

H.H. approved the launch of the Emirati Reference Genome Platform – an initiative by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), alongside Khalifa University of Science and Technology, and M42, to make the data from the Emirati Reference Genome Study accessible to clinicians and researchers. The launch of the platform marks a significant effort in research by representing the genetic makeup of more than 140,000 UAE Nationals, the largest Middle Eastern cohort to date. The platform will aid in identifying genetic risk factors for diseases common among the Emirati population and facilitate the development of personalised treatments and preventive strategies. By harnessing the power of genetics, the platform will also play a crucial role in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of future generations, contributing to a shift from a focus on healthcare to a broader emphasis on overall health and wellness.

The Emirati Reference Genome study will significantly contribute to enhancing the health and wellbeing of the local community by supporting personalised medicine programmes, enabling treatments based on an individual's unique genetic makeup, and developing preventive strategies and solutions to reduce the risk of these diseases.

Identifying genetic variations that influence drug response can optimise pharmaceutical development processes and improve treatment plans resulting in more effective and safer treatments.

Useful insights from collected and analysed data can also inform public health policies and enhance community wellness.

H.H. reviewed updates on the Emirati Genome Program, which has collected more than 600,000 samples to date, achieving 60 per cent of its target of one million samples. The programme will keep expanding its operations to achieve its key goal. It has also trained over 1,000 UAE nationals to support its upcoming phases.