KHALEEJ TIMES, Monday, Jun 21, 2021 | Zul Qaadah 10, 1442
DHCC pushing boundaries with evolutionary healthcare initiatives
Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is fast emerging as a world-class hub for
evolutionary healthcare initiatives, due to its highly focused approach
towards research and development, experts said.
Speaking in an exclusive with Khaleej Times ahead of the Arab Health 2021
exhibition, Jamal Abdulsalam, chief executive officer at DHCC, said that the
DHCC’s initiatives has put Dubai on the global stage for the healthcare sector.
“We have a great story to tell. It's a story of a collaborative environment
where scientists, medics, academics and healthcare providers are coming together
in a powerful ecosystem of knowledge, scientific abilities and advanced
technologies that are now cornerstones of DHCC's transformative ecosystem.”
He further highlighted what visitors at Arab Health can expect to see with the
DHCC’s participation under the theme ‘Research and Innovation’. Together with
its partners Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU),
Al Jalila Children's Specialty Hospital (AJSH), and Al Jalila Foundation, the
DHCC has rolled out a series of sector-leading initiatives aimed at nurturing
medical breakthroughs and upscaling development opportunities for medical
The AJSH is to carry out the GCC's first clinical study into the epidemiology of
spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), an autosomal recessive inherited disease and a
leading genetic killer for sufferers under the age of two years. The study,
which focuses on the epidemiology of the disease in the UAE, is a screening
program led by AJSH's state-of-the-art Genomics Center – the UAE's first
clinical genomics facility which offers a wide range of genetic testing and
counselling services to the American College of Genetics and Genomics (ACMGG)
"This is breakthrough research being conducted right here in the emirates which
addresses a research gap and will enable the sector to better understand the
scale of the SMA problem in the country and stimulate further research into how
to address it," explained Abdulsalam.
AJSH is also spearheading a working group to study the workflow of genome
sequencing in the intensive care setting following an agreement with Illumina
Netherlands BV, the world's leader in next-generation sequencing. The move is
aimed at improving the use of testing, fostering greater understanding of
best-use cases, clinical indicators, and the health economics of genome
sequencing in the specialized setting. And the DHCC partner has also secured a
Memorandum of Understanding with the independent University of Balamand Dubai
which will see the two develop, collaborate, and engage in mutually beneficial
educational, training, research, and internship opportunities for both the
University's students and its faculty.
"These are just several initiatives in a wide-ranging program which has seen us,
in collaboration with our long-standing partners, complete 70 research projects
over the past two years, and currently progress 75 active research studies,
ranging from Covid-19, cancer, diabetes, autism, gastroenterology, depression,
kidney disorders, and a number of paediatric conditions," explained Abdulsalam.
“In collaboration with our partners we have implemented three Phase III Clinical
Trials and two, Phase II Clinical Trials - important work that will shed new
light on treatments for a number of conditions and ultimately contribute to
The R&D focus is aligned to the UAE Centennial 2071 plan, the country's bold
vision which focuses on innovation and education to advance science and
technology and improve health sciences.
"This is a clear statement of our goal for the next 50 years of becoming a
global incubator of entrepreneurship and an international center of research,"
said Abdulsalam. "We are well advanced in bringing together medics, scientists,
and academics to ensure research and development remain cornerstones of an
ecosystem which will not only deliver quality healthcare in this country but aid
the advancement of medical research worldwide.”
He added: "Our partners are now attracting the attention of major global names
within the medical equipment and pharmaceutical industries who are turning to
them for knowledge transfer and the sharing of expertise. This, in itself, is
evidence that we are on the cusp of global recognition as a healthcare research
center of industry-leading standing."
Abdulsalam also believes that the DHCC's new theme is timely with the Covid-19
pandemic awakening recognition of the essential role of research and development
in healthcare advancement. "Researchers and scientists were once unsung heroes –
that's no longer the case. There is now public recognition that these
professionals are key to the health of our communities. DHCC is now in the
process of implementing clinic trials in a bid to minimize the impact of the
novel coronavirus and our partners have played a leading role in Dubai's fight
against the pandemic," he said.
The Dubai Covid-19 Command and Control Center, established by Sheikh Hamdan Bin
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Chairman of the
Executive Council, to coordinate the emirate's response to tackling the virus,
performed the UAE's first full genome sequencing of the virus, conducted by
researchers at the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health
Sciences (MBRU), a DHCC anchor partner.
Another DHCC partner, the Al Jalila Foundation, which promotes medical education
and research by investing in the Emirates' medical treatment capabilities, also
granted seed funding totaling $680,735 to five UAE scientists charting new
research territories for Covid-19 in the field of genetics, therapies, and
diagnosis. The grant was awarded under the auspices of the recently inaugurated
Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Research Institute (MRMRI) – the UAE's first
independent biomedical research center - to help enhance the UAE's capacity to
address the pandemic and other viral diseases in the future.
"One encouraging outcome of the pandemic amid the challenges is acceleration in
rapid action, digital transformation and collaboration. As the world moves
forward during the Covid-era, research and development, cooperation, and
knowledge sharing will be vital to sustained success. By embracing and
optimizing new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, machine
learning and smart solutions many of our partners now have a distinct
competitive advantage in the new normal and for the half-century ahead,"
"The creation of the new Medical Research Institute and Al Jalila Foundation's
funding of high-profile research projects across genomics, pediatric nephrology,
kidney disease, neurology, and mental health, will enable great insights to be
delivered to the world's medical community via informed papers and case studies
which will be submitted to international conferences and publications over the
coming months and years,” he added. “This will add to the momentum to building
DHCC's research center credentials, encourage other leading professionals to
join our community, help engage more industry supporters, bring more patients to
our shores, improve the health of the UAE population and realize our ambition of
driving healthcare change for the next 50 years."