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Story | Research
10 November 2019

Research partnership helps knowledge flow for Qatari scientists


Qatar Science & Technology Park is supporting innovative “green biotech” research that crosses borders

Scientists in Qatar and Italy have been given the opportunity to collaborate on joint research through a partnership between Qatar Science & Technology Park, Qatar University, and an Italian biotech research consortium whose teams include Nobel laureates.

The project between the Qatari institutions and the BioGeM Research Institute has supported the development of young scientists at Qatar University, who were able to complete their Master’s degrees in biotechnology at the Università degli Studi del Sannio di Benevento in Italy.

The BioGeM program convened by BioGeM focused on “green biotech” and involved applying the biosciences to the environment and developing products using natural sources. Their research focused on exploring pharmaceutical uses for indigenous flora in Qatar, and highlighted the presence of a strongly anti-inflammatory active molecule in Qatar’s Sidra tree that could be used for both pharmaceutical and cosmetic purposes.

“The scientific world has always been an international environment in which to move and talk with colleagues around the world,” says Pasquale Vito, Professor of Genetics at the University of Sannio and Group Leader at the BioGeM Research Institute. “And it's just one example of how science is able to bridge the distance between people.”

BioGeM is a non-profit consortium inaugurated in 2006 by Nobel laureate Rita Levi Montalcini and comprises research laboratories, services and teaching facilities. Its research primarily focuses on fighting cancer and degenerative diseases, often in collaboration with international groups.

“At the time of starting the collaboration with QSTP in 2011, two of my collaborators, Dr. Romania Stilo and Dr. Tiziana Zotti, and two Qatari students, Aisha Al-Kuwari and Mashael Al Naemi, were involved,” explains Professor Vito.

“The project also included an educational aspect, as a result of which the two young Qatari students attended and obtained a master's degree in Italy. QSTP funded the scientific aspect of the project, supported the two students during their stay for a year in Italy, and worked as a link between BioGeM and Qatar University.”

Professor Vito says the collaboration with QSTP – part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation - stretched beyond science, and gave him the opportunity to get to know “a group of true visionaries”.

“One of the hallmarks of QSTP’s management is their brilliance in negotiation, and their ability to anticipate and accommodate every slightest hitch,” he says. “The administrative part of projects is always followed impeccably down to every detail. For the scientific part, the team keeps engaging through constructive meetings.”

“From that initial experience, over the past years I’ve continued to maintain professional ties with QSTP and the people who work there. In Italy, in addition to teaching at a university, I’ve been able to found my own start-up and I collaborate with a myriad of companies through the network I’ve built through QSTP.”

Professor Vito’s experience highlights a vital aspect of QSTP’s mission as Qatar’s premier hub for applied research, technology innovation, and entrepreneurship, which is to support Qatar’s drive toward sustainable economic development and diversification.

At QSTP, I learned that transferring knowledge is as important as generating knowledge itself.

Professor Pasquale Vito

“At QSTP, I learned that transferring knowledge is as important as generating knowledge itself,” he adds. “I believe QSTP has fully fulfilled its role of fostering and supporting national economic development through innovation.

“I think it should be recognized that QSTP provides an ideal environment in which innovative, internationalized companies can develop tight interactions with higher education institutions and research organizations, with mutual benefits.”

QSTP’s collaboration with BioGeM and Qatar University was unique in more than one aspect.

Dr. Salvino Salvaggio

Dr. Salvino Salvaggio, Senior Director, Implementation and RDI Office Management, says: “QSTP’s collaboration with BioGeM and Qatar University was unique in more than one aspect.

“First, it was one of the first projects supporting applied research, and second, one of the first collaborations with an international partner of such standing – including the active presence of Nobel laureates in its scientific community. It was a tremendous opportunity for knowledge transfer and building the scientific research skills of Qatari scientists in this specialized area, which ultimately laid the initial groundwork for our vision of building a sustainable economy in Qatar from within Education City.”

Professor Vito foresees more collaboration with QSTP in the future: “Doing research is an extraordinary privilege and a way to help others,” he says. “

“I am in the process of founding a biotechnology start-up to develop advanced diagnostic and therapeutic tools. Obviously, the ideal place for the location of this start-up is QSTP.”

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