Two UAE universities to set up precision medicine and food security research institutes

Abu Dhabi company Aspire will invest $54m to fund new research in priority sectors

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Two Abu Dhabi universities will open new research institutes in three sectors facing urgent challenges: precision medicine, food security and sustainable energy production.

Aspire, an entity of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council, has pledged to fund the research by investing at least $54 million over five years.

UAE University will have two research institutes while Khalifa University will have one.

“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,” said Arthur Morrish, chief executive of Aspire.

“We look forward to seeing the long-term impact the [research institutes] will have and to their recommendations that can enhance the quality of life of the local population with far-reaching implications for health care, food security and sustainable energy.”

ATRC, which oversees Aspire, was formed in May 2020 as an independent authority to set the technological priorities of the emirate as it prepares the economy for a post-oil future.

The new Precision Medicine Virtual Research Institute at UAEU will be led by Milos Ljubisavljevic. It will focus on transforming biotechnology research in Abu Dhabi and how to increase the average lifespan of people and improve their quality of life.

In partnership with the Abu Dhabi Health Authority (Seha), the institute will develop research projects to address major diseases and ways to improve clinical care in the emirate.

The institute will also partner with Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi and the Cleveland Clinic as well as Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the University of North Carolina, among others, to develop and share research.

The proposed research institute “seeks to drive home the urgent need for a holistic healthcare system focused on precision medicine — whereby diagnosis, prognosis and treatment are customised to meet individual patient needs based on scientific principles”, a statement from Aspire said.

The International Virtual Research Institute for Food Security in the Drylands — the second one at UAEU — will be led by Elke Neumann. It aims to achieve food security in arid regions.

The research institute will team up with Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi Agriculture, Food Safety Authority and the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi as well as the University of California-Davis and Wageningen University.

The team will look at innovative ways to increase urban farming food supplies. The focus will be on protected urban plant cultivation, urban agroforestry, aquaculture and insect and algal farming.

The institute will create data platforms and simulation tools to track animal and food-borne diseases and antimicrobial resistance. It will also forecast future consumer needs and trends globally and in local food markets.

The third institute at Khalifa University, led by Samuel Mao, will focus on sustainable energy production, storage and utilisation. It will focus on developing advanced renewable energy and sustainable technologies.

The institute will collaborate with New York University Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi University as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology, among others.

Most of the R&D work will focus on sustainable power generation, energy storage and smart grids that are crucial for Abu Dhabi’s sustainable development.

Updated: January 13, 2022, 4:43 PM