Medical reports based on someone’s genetic profile are helping doctors to identify drugs most suitable for particular patients as Abu Dhabi looks to lead the way in precision medicine.
A new partnership between the Department of Health Abu Dhabi and M42 – which operates Abu Dhabi Health Data Services – will allow a broader exchange of health information of participants in the Emirati Genome Programme.
The step was announced on the sidelines of the Gitex technology show in Dubai.
Pharmacogenomic reports (PGx) can help cut waste and ensure more efficient use of medicine supplies by informing doctors about which drugs are most likely to work for individuals.
The protocol could become the benchmark for future health care in a new era of precision medicine that improves patient outcomes.
"Health care has always used the principle of one size fits all, which means certain medication is given to a patient with symptoms, regardless of their response to that type of medication," Dr Asma Al Mannaei, executive director at the Research and Innovation Centre at the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, told The National.
"We now know each individual is unique in its own features, and in its own response to external and internal factors."
One of those is the chemical compounds in any drug, she said.
"Our researchers demonstrated some medications used commonly for chronic disease do not work for at least, let's say, 20 per cent to 30 per cent of our population.
"We can capitalise on this information, science and knowledge for the benefit of patients, by making this information readily available for the patient and for the doctor to make the right decision for their care."
The PGx reports offer insights into the compatibility of various medications, which will help physicians to avoid potentially harmful drug-to-drug interactions.
The Emirati Genome Programme is a significant national project that aims to draw a comprehensive genetic map for UAE citizens to accelerate the development of advanced preventative and personalised healthcare solutions.
It is one of the largest population genome initiatives in the world and works in collaboration with research and medical institutions throughout the UAE.
A health information exchange via the Malaffi platform connects the capital's health sector with more than 2,700 healthcare facilities in Abu Dhabi, giving 47,000 clinical users access to about two billion unique clinical records.
The vast quantity of data is helping to shape the future of health care in the UAE, Dr Al Mannaei said.
"There are unique features in our population, whether it is from diversity or inclusiveness," she said.
“At the same time, the prevalence of some diseases here might be different than other countries."
Dr Al Mannaei said the investment that the UAE government has put in place to make the data readily available is creating a shortcut for research and clinical trials to be conducted here.
"Pharmacogenomics can help Abu Dhabi become a beacon for precision medicine, and health care."
Innovation in health care has been a key theme of Gitex 2023, with start-up businesses looking to make an impact in the sector at the Expand North Star conference in Dubai Harbour.
One of those included Detectiome's Revonco Multicancer test that has been designed to spot cancers most likely in the specific genetic make-up of Middle East populations.
The technology, which is currently in the research stage of development, uses AI to deliver lifesaving technology to give accurate, efficient and personalised cancer care for patients in the region.
Regional specific tests
Revonco uses generative AI and multiomics – an approach that combines and analyses several fields of genetic study – to detect several types of cancers at their earliest stages, even before symptoms manifest.
Diagnosing cancers early can enhance treatment options, and improve survival rates.
But not all precision diagnostics are created equal, with a typical product developed for the US and European genetic population being up to half as effective when used in the Middle East.
The Revonco technology is under clinical trial before it can be registered with the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention, the developers said.
“Revonco is not just another liquid biopsy product; it's the only precision diagnostic product in the world specifically designed for the genetic population of the Middle East,” said Arman Vali, chief executive of Detectiome.
“We understand the effectiveness of precision diagnostics is inherently linked to the genetic diversity of the target population.
“Our mission is to bridge the gap between cutting-edge precision medicine and the unique genetic make-up of the Middle East.”