Project analyses link between genetics, autism - GulfToday

Project analyses link between genetics, autism


Businesswomen in the country discuss their role in the Year of Tolerance during a Ramadan evening. WAM

Sandooq Al Watan, the national initiative launched by prominent Emirati businessmen to support research projects for the post-oil era, is partnering with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, MBRU, to promote research into Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD.

The programme seeks to address complexities surrounding the correlation between genetics and ASD, and to implement a robust machine intelligence, MI, algorithm to decipher the polygenic risk factor of ASD by computing gene-gene interactions from genomic data. The cutting-edge design of the proposed project integrates human genetics and genetic engineering with MI and, ultimately, translates knowledge into therapeutics and healthcare.

The research project is the second to be awarded under the SWARD programme, part of Sandooq Al Watan’s researcher platform. Now in its second cycle, SWARD seeks to bridge the gap between academia and industry in the UAE to deliver tangible social and economic outcomes to the country. It supports projects across four priority areas: Aerospace and Defence, Water Management, Healthcare and Genomics, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Mohamed Al Qadhi, General Manager of Sandooq Al Watan, said, “Sandooq Al Watan has set a strategic goal for itself to cooperate with various government and private-sector entities in the UAE to drive forward our mission and offer all forms of support to innovative researchers with ideas to ensure the UAE’s sustainable development.”

“In line with the Year of Tolerance and the Special Olympics that was hosted in the UAE we believe this project is extremely important to people of determination and the community, and we are delighted to be working with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences to strengthen research into Autism Spectrum Disorder, which affects 1 in every 59 children.

“The advanced research we look forward to fostering in partnership with the University is part of our endeavour to build a knowledge-based national economy and enhance the UAE’s contribution to the global R&D output,” he added.

For his part, Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Dean of College of Medicine and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at MBRU, said: “We are very excited by the opportunity to partner with Sandooq Al Watan in their support of research at MBRU. We are particularly proud of our medical students who are part of the scientific team led by Dr Mohammed Uddin. Research is a key strategic pillar for MBRU, and we firmly believe that advancing the research agenda in the UAE is critically dependent on partnerships and support from the community at large.”

Recently, the Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, MBRU, issued the ‘Doctors Tolerance Pledge’ in the presence of Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, and officials.

The Doctors Tolerance Pledge is designed to further promote and enhance cooperation, unity, inclusivity, and diversity for students and faculty within the university as it strives to advance the health sector in the UAE and beyond.

According to the document, signatories acknowledge that every human has “the right to be treated with fairness and dignity”, therefore pledging to “exercise my knowledge and experience gained as a healthcare professional to improve the quality of life and health of my fellow humans”.

Those who sign the Pledge also agree to “Give my best towards creating a tolerant world where my fellow humans can live together in harmony” and “honour and cherish Sheikh Zayed’s values of fostering tolerance and human fraternity.”

Sheikh Nahyan toured the educational and research facility, including the recently launched Design Lab, built to be a centre for nurturing and fostering innovative healthcare solutions, and met with leading faculty, students from the College of Medicine and the Hamdan Bin Mohammed College of Dental Medicine.

“This pledge is a further demonstration of the university’s total commitment to supporting the country’s endeavours in establishing the UAE as a global reference for a tolerant culture via policies and practices,” said MBRU Vice Chancellor Dr. Amer Sharif. “The pledge will inform the behaviour of the medics of 28 nationalities who study in harmony at MBRU.”