The importance of regional medical research collaboration was the focus of the ‘Biobanking in the Context of Personalised Healthcare’ conference, hosted by Qatar Biobank in Doha last week.
Inaugurated by Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, Chairperson of Qatar Biobank’s Board of Trustees, and Dr Hadi Abderrahim, Managing Director of Qatar Biobank, the country’s first biobanking conference saw international scientists come together to discuss the evolution of modern healthcare and the important role, and potential impact, of biobanking on future generations.
“Biobanking is one of the great healthcare opportunities of our time. Data collected by the Qatar Biobank will be used to help understand how lifestyle, environment and genes affect health locally, and will fully empower our volunteers to manage their own health. It will also play a critical role in helping develop treatments, and preventing disease, for future generations,” said Dr Hanan.
“That process will only be enhanced by the collaboration and connections made by so many distinguished guests coming together for such a stimulating and rewarding conference.”
Through its collection of samples and information on the health and lifestyles of large numbers of the national population, Qatar Biobank is making vital medical research possible for scientists in Qatar, the region, and the world.
The two-day symposium featured in-depth sessions that explored topics such as translational research, Middle East biobanks, and information generation and management within biobanking. Sessions were chaired by leading industry experts including, Dr Elena Cattaneo, Italian Republic Senator for Life and Director of the Center for Stem Cell Research at the University of Milano; Dr Paul Elliott from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London; and Dr Pasquale De Blasio, CEO of Integrated Systems Engineering Srl (ISENET).
“The notion of personalized healthcare has been around for some time, but with this conference we hope to take this idea to the next level, and explore preventative personalized medicine and collaborations across the region,” said Dr Abderrahim.
“As Qatar and its surrounding region sees an increase in diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, the need for population-based research becomes ever more apparent, as the need to understand our local communities’ genetic makeup, environment, habits and lifestyles, increases.”
Experts also emphasized that the future of personalized healthcare lies in the ability to combine active research with medical intervention, and such efforts could be enhanced by collaboration and knowledge sharing among regional biobanks.
Additionally, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, officially opened Qatar Biobank’s new state-of-the-art facility in Hamad bin Khalifa Medical City, on the side lines of the ‘Biobanking in the Context of Personalised Healthcare’ conference.
The official inauguration of the Qatar Biobank building follows the conclusion of its two-year operational pilot phase, the results of which provided a snapshot of the current health of the population, along with the identification of future risk factors - gathered from samples collected from 1,200 participants.
The collection and analysis of DNA samples at Qatar Biobank complements the Qatar Genome Project, launched in 2013 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, with the aim of diagnosing diseases more accurately and hence implementing personalized treatment.
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