Abu Dhabi has launched a vast genetics lab with the aim of screening the entire Emirati population within months.
Omics Centre of Excellence, operated by G42 Healthcare, is set to play a crucial role in better understanding and fighting disease – including variations of the coronavirus.
The sophisticated centre, in Masdar City, has the largest and fastest supercomputer in the region with the capability of processing the genetic sequencing of Emiratis in the UAE, of whom there are more than one million.
Ashish Koshy, chief executive of G42 Healthcare, expects to have screened the entire population within months.
“The launch of this lab, the Omics lab, ensures that Abu Dhabi has the capabilities of advanced sequencing here in the country,” he said.
Samples were previously sent abroad for genetic sequencing. But the new lab will allow blood samples to be processed in the UAE.
“What we have built this world-class infrastructure to ensure that everything can be done in-house, and we are more than happy to accept samples from other countries,” he said.
“Potentially, there are a lot of genome projects but never has there been anything of this scale.
“We want Emiratis to donate blood through hospitals, majlis and wherever possible.”
He said he is confident all Emiratis across the nation will take part in the forward-thinking initiative.
The centre will provide the platform for the Emirati Genome Programme, which will explore the genetic make-up of citizens and contribute towards personalised and preventive healthcare.
The lab has already begun taking blood samples from UAE citizens, beginning with Sheikh Abdullah Al Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health and its undersecretary, Dr Jamal Al Kaabi.
The programme will be led by the emirate’s Department of Health and delivered by G42.
“Improving the well-being of our society and transforming healthcare is a priority of the Department of Health Abu Dhabi,” its chairman, Sheikh Abdullah Al Hamed, said.
“We welcome initiatives such as this one, G42 Healthcare’s Omics Centre of Excellence, which result in positive outcomes for the local community while elevating the healthcare sector’s ecosystem and available infrastructure.
“By employing the most innovative technologies to date, and with a strong Emirati representation in the centre as well as throughout the company’s other initiatives, this groundbreaking facility will lay the foundation of a healthier future for all in the UAE.”
Dr Asma Al Mannaei, director of the healthcare quality division at the Department of Health, was the first woman to participate in the project by providing a blood sample.
“This will enable us to understand why disease is happening and what the potential cure it is. I am very pleased to participate in the Emirati Genome project that will enable the full understanding of the genetic composition of UAE nationals and what will be their predictive health,” she said.
“We need to understand our differentiation in terms of our genetic composition and this will contribute towards customising treatment and therapies for our population.
“This is the first and most important step for precision medicine. It is a dream that we have been waiting for many years.”
The service is free of charge and will soon be available at various healthcare centres. It will contribute towards personalised medicine for UAE nationals.