The UAE has launched a National Genome Strategy that will help improve public health and enhance well-being. Understanding the genetic makeup of citizens will help medical teams deliver personalised healthcare services. It will also help develop solutions to limit the spread of genetic and chronic diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure conditions and cancer.

The strategy was launched in the presence of the President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Over the next 10 years, the strategy will provide a comprehensive framework of legislation and governance to support the development and implementation of genomic programmes.

It will support efficiency in the country’s healthcare sector through preventive medicine programmes that will focus on genetic risk, and precision medicine programmes that target genetic and rare diseases. It will also support doctors in taking proactive steps to reduce the prevalence of certain diseases, enable early intervention, and help identify the most effective treatments. As a result, genomic sciences will reduce health sector costs and drug expenditures over the long term.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said: “Science and knowledge have always been key drivers of the UAE’s development. Our priority is to ensure the best healthcare and quality of life for our people.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said the strategy highlights the country’s position as a hub for advanced healthcare research, innovation and future technology use.

Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office and Chairman of the Emirates Genome Council, explained how the strategy will accelerate the development of “priority preventive and personalised healthcare solutions for our citizens”.

Sara bint Yousef Al Amiri, Secretary-General of the Emirates Genome Council, highlighted the Emirati Genome Programme (EGP) as a foundational project within the National Genome Strategy. The programme is one of the most comprehensive genomic initiatives in the world and will advance the nation’s preventive and personalised healthcare agenda as it collaborates with research and medical institutions across the UAE.

“Our database today contains whole genome sequencing data from around 400,000 citizens. Our target is to collect one million samples nationwide and we look forward to the participation of all Emiratis,” she said.

Al Amiri also highlighted the UAE Reference Genome programme, which will analyse more than 50,000 Emirati genome samples using new generation sequencing technology.

The study will provide a foundation for understanding the genetic basis of health and diseases. It will help specify the genetic health risks for each citizen and allow for preliminary prevention and personalised precision treatments.

“Work is underway on a number of clinical programmes that use the available genome data and insights, including the first personalised precision medicine programme for oncology in the region initially targeting breast cancer, the advanced pre-marital genetic screening programme, pharmacogenomics programmes and many more to be piloted in the near future.”

Genome programmes will help create new economic opportunities in the UAE by attracting partnerships in fields such as artificial intelligence, advanced medical care, pharmaceuticals, and research and technology. It will also nurture specialised local talent, as well as create jobs and other opportunities in future-focused industries.

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