In the presence of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Emirates Genome Council has launched the National Genome Strategy.
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 to deliver on the UAE’s public health priorities and enhance wellbeing in the country.
His Highness 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.”
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, “The National Genome Strategy highlights the country’s position as a hub for advanced healthcare research, innovation and future technology use.”
H.H. 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, highlighted the UAE’s leadership commitment to the advancement of its healthcare sector.
H.H. Sheikh Khaled said, “The National Genome Strategy ensures a comprehensive and sustainable ecosystem that will accelerate the development of priority preventive and personalised healthcare solutions for our citizens. The Council will also oversee the ‘One Million Genome’ project which will enable the healthcare sector and enhance its services.”
National Genome Strategy: key pillars
The Emirates Genome Council, which was established in 2021, has made significant progress in establishing a foundation for regulatory, research, technological and medical institutions to connect, collaborate and develop qualitative medical applications and services.
Sara bint Yousef Al Amiri, Secretary-General of the Emirates Genome Council, said, “With the National Genome Strategy, the council seeks to build a sustainable ecosystem to advance health and wellbeing in the UAE.
Our strategy is based on five key pillars: establishing an agile framework of legislation and governance; creating a harmonised and secure data infrastructure; developing top-tier genomic research and innovation capabilities; focusing on genomic applications that align with public health priorities; and building strategic partnerships that accelerate delivery of best-in-class programmes.”
She highlighted the Emirati Genome Programme (EGP) as a foundational project within the National Genome Strategy. The programme is considered 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.
She added, “Understanding the genetic makeup of our citizens will help medical teams deliver personalised healthcare services to each one. Moreover, this wealth of information will help us develop solutions to limit the spread of genetic and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, blood pressure conditions, and cancer.
“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.”
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, will help to specify the genetic health risks for each citizen and allow for preliminary prevention and personalised precision treatments. The programme is carried out in collaboration with the best researchers and institutions in the country.”
She added, “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.”
Advancing healthcare, growing capabilities
The Emirates Genome Council oversees all UAE genomics programmes and projects that are developed and implemented in collaboration with a host of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Emirates Health Services Establishment, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, and the Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Academic Health Corporation, as well as partner academic, medical and technological institutions, such as Khalifa University, Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, United Arab Emirates University, New York University - Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Sharjah, G42 Healthcare, Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), and Al Jalila Foundation.
The National Genome Strategy 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 to identify the most effective treatments. As a result, genomic sciences will reduce health sector costs and drug expenditures over the long term.
Genome programmes will also 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.