Abu Dhabi primed to be major clinical trial capital, officials say

Delegation from Department of Health explores US collaborations

Dr Asma Al Mannaei, director of healthcare quality at Department of Health - Abu Dhabi, was part of a UAE delegation exploring new medical collaborations in the US. Photo: Department of Health - Abu Dhabi
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The UAE's capital is well placed to become the leading destination for clinical trials, officials from Department of Health — Abu Dhabi say.

With its population of people from all parts of the world and its strategic position on the map, Abu Dhabi is suited to attract international life sciences corporations, they said during a visit to the US.

A delegation from Abu Dhabi visited the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, the US capital, and toured biomedicine research and development in the city of Boston, a centre for life sciences.

The state of Massachusetts is viewed as a template for how to develop economic growth from the sector.

For every life sciences job created there, five more in wider health and sciences open up.

With more than 200 nationalities working and living together in the same geographical location, we are a cohort for the whole world
Dr Asma Al Mannaei, Department of Health - Abu Dhabi

The UAE’s diverse population, robust regulatory authorities and growing academic talent pool has created opportunities for corporations to explore Abu Dhabi, the team said.

“We want to contribute to the healthcare of the whole population, not just the UAE, and be a part of creating the future together,” said Dr Asma Al Mannaei, director of healthcare quality at Department of Health — Abu Dhabi.

“Three years ago, it was hard to imagine conducting Phase III clinical trials [in the UAE], people were anxious about what this meant.

“Now we are embarking on multiple trials with confidence,” she said.

“With more than 200 nationalities working and living together in the same geographical location, we are a cohort for the whole world.”

Currently, there are around 400 clinical research trials under way in Abu Dhabi.

Researchers can use the Emirati Genome Programme, which aims to provide preventive and personalised healthcare for the Emirati population, and the Malaffi system that has unified health services and patient information.

“We have a wealth of data that makes us confident in understanding what is the impact of different drugs on a population, and apply real world evidence,” Dr Al Mannaei said.

“It is not just about clinical data. We have started the Emirati Genome Programme, which will provide us with a precious layer of genetic data and a foundation for precision and personalised medicine.

“We want to use this data to fast-track new drug discoveries, so we are opening the doors for new collaborations.”

Research has revealed some drugs are ineffective in Emirati patients, including those with diabetes, with scientists are looking to understand why.

Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare extracts data anonymously for analyse by its Biogenix Labs and Omics Centre of Excellence.

Meanwhile, a centralised database of patient records under the Malaffi system provides population health information to assist in service planning.

As the system progresses, AI technology and machine learning will be used to reduce disease progression and promote improved health outcomes.

During the visit, Yousef Al Otaiba, Minister of State and UAE ambassador to the US, said partnerships had improved the lives of thousands of patients and health care.

“Partnerships are key to improving medical care for people in the US, UAE, and around the world,” he said.

“Encouraging more Emiratis to work in the healthcare and research sectors is vital.

“US universities will continue to play a key role to help to train the next generation of Emirati physicians, health care workers and researchers.

“At the same time, these partnerships are helping to expand the UAE’s own education and health care infrastructure.”

Collaborations with international partners and the private sector helped to fast-track the establishment of Abu Dhabi as major distribution centre, he said.

“The life sciences, healthcare and pharma sectors will be key to helping the UAE reach its economic diversification and economic growth goals,” Mr Otaiba said.

“It will also be good for health outcomes for the people of the UAE and the region.

“Given the ease of doing business, the world-class talent pool, quality of life and geographic location, the UAE is an ideal place for companies seeking to expand their business and access new markets.”

Life sciences can boost economic growth

Life sciences are a major interest when it comes to the UAE's switch to non-oil gross domestic product growth.

Collaboration with international private enterprise is crucial to that, particularly in the US, with strong intellectual property rights protection laws making the UAE attractive for drug manufacturers.

Robust IP protection provides incentives and the business security needed to encourage long-term pharmaceutical investment, as long as laws are properly enforced.

Nanotechnology in cancer treatment, gene editing and cellular therapeutics were identified as priority areas for development by the delegation.

The UAE was one of the first countries to participate in clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines, while Abu Dhabi locally manufactured more than 300,000 Covid-19 RNA extraction solution samples.

It is an example of the emirate’s potential and rapid development, according to Dr Omar Najim, director of executive affairs at Department of Health — Abu Dhabi.

“During Covid, we handled more than 260 million vaccine doses through Abu Dhabi to more than 60 countries,” Dr Najim said.

“We have proved our world class infrastructure and we now want to take these collaborations to the next level.”

Inside the laboratory taking samples for the Emirati Genome Programme: in pictures

Updated: June 13, 2022, 6:14 AM