Abu Dhabi launches genome programme to provide tailored health care to Emiratis

Programme also expected to improve understanding of Arab genetic variations

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A gene-mapping programme that will allow doctors to provide personalised and preventive treatment plans to Emiratis was announced on Tuesday.

Samples will be collected from Emiratis across Abu Dhabi to create a database.

The data can be scanned to detect changes in genes, chromosomes and proteins that can lead to genetic diseases, allowing doctors to get ahead of the illness.

Abu Dhabi Department of Health announced the Genome Programme, which will be the first of its kind worldwide to provide citizens with their own high-quality genome as a baseline and incorporate the data into healthcare management.

It plans to achieve this by using advanced sequencing technology to generate the highest quality, most comprehensive genome data.

One of the world’s top supercomputers, Group 42’s Artemis in Abu Dhabi, will be used to analyse the huge amount of data and generate new insights.

The programme is also expected to improve the understanding of Arab genetic variations that has been a challenge because of the lack of an Emirati reference genome.

“Embracing innovation and providing a comprehensive healthcare programme in Abu Dhabi remains at the forefront of our priorities,” said Abdulla Al Hamed, chairman of the department.

“Two of the world’s most exciting technologies – DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence – will come together in this project.

"The Genome Programme will enhance our knowledge of citizens' genomes and establish a strong foundation of health and well-being.”

The programme will be delivered by Group 42 in collaboration with global genome sequencing leaders BGI and Oxford Nanopore Technologies.