News Column

QBRI sets up research laboratories for personalised medicine

February 4, 2014

By Joseph Varghese/Staff Reporter Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI) has set up two research laboratories for personalised medicine, heralding a new era of medical model that customises healthcare to the individual patient.

The laboratories which are the first of their kind in the country,  will facilitate translational and clinical research in personalised medicine.  QBRI is one of the three national research centres under Qatar Foundation Research and Development (QF R&D).

In an exclusive interview with Gulf Times, the Executive Director of QBRI Dr Abdelali Haoudi said one of the laboratories is  set up at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) and the other one at the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP).

"Providing clinical care to the population of the country and the region is a priority for QBRI. In this regard what has been missing is translational and clinical research. With the establishment of these labs, QBRI has physical presence in Qatar and they are first of their kind in Qatar." Dr Haoudi said QBRI has set up four major centres on personalised and precision medicine.   "These centres are for genomic medicine, stem cell research, gene therapy and biomedical engineering on new diagnostic tools and nanomaterials. All the centres will work in co-operation and partnership with Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra Medical Research Centre." The research programmes in the lab at WCMC-Q is led by Scientific Director, Genomic Medicine and Systems Biology Research Centre Dr Philippe Froguel while the one at QSTP is headed by Dr Nagy Habib, scientific director, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research Centre.

Dr Froguel said the research activities in his lab started  last week and more machines will reach by the second week of this month.

"In the next three months, we will have sequencing of the genomes of the people with diabetes and breast cancer. Two dozen scientists are working in the lab with the samples of patients from Hamad Hospital." Dr Froguel said that at present the treatment for diabetes is based on certain broadly approved guidelines.

"We need to do better with customised medicine which is called precision or personalised medicine. We are testing all the information about the patients and their genomes. In the process, we are collaborating with Dr Nagy on the stem cell project of diabetes."   The scientist also disclosed that the facilities at the lab enable researchers to prepare the DNA from blood and store it.   "There is also the facility for analysing the viability of genome called genotyping and for screening the gene of the people we analyse. We use this information to translate into useful innovation for better diagnosing and treatment." He added that a set of researchers are engaged in cancer research using the method of genome medicine.

Dr Habib explained that the stem cell programme is complementary to the genomic medicine.   "Today we can get the stem cells from anyone's blood, and use them to produce insulin. Another area that we are working is cancer. By looking at the genes we can predict why people develop cancer. We are developing treatment for many types of cancer." The scientists also said that two of the top five pharmaceutical companies in the world are keen on the QBRI findings.

 "It is not just about research alone but about treatment. When we succeed there will be a QBRI treatment for diabetes, another  QBRI treatment for cancer. It could be in the near future that Doha becomes the Harvard of Middle East where everything is driven by the top scientists of the world." Dr Habib elaborated that QBRI has national and international collaboration with a number of agencies.

"We have set up a clinical trial protocol in collaboration with Imperial College London and have met with the top officials of Supreme Council of Health for ethics in order for approval for clinical trial in Doha," he added.

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Source: Gulf Times (Qatar)

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