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Abu Dhabi Biobank to tackle global inequity in clinical trials

Abu Dhabi Biobank to tackle global inequity in clinical trials
14 May 2024 08:43

KHALED AL KHAWALDEH (ABU DHABI)

Taking place in front large crowds of medical professionals from across the world, M42 and the Department of Health brought their vision of a localised Biobank closer to reality, penning a deal with major healthcare providers from across the emirate.

The project, which will seek to collect biological specimens from patients around the UAE to allow for greater localisation of pharmaceutical products, is a major milestone that practitioners say will allow for better quality and more personalised care.

“Globally, our clinical trials industry is really represented by a very small portion of ethnicities. It’s well documented that approximately only 10% of the ethnicities globally represent 90% of clinical trials,” Albarah Elkhani, Senior Vice President at M42, told Aletihad.

“So that entails that our communities in the region are completely underrepresented when it comes to clinical trial and to drug discoveries.”

Elkhani explained that only by collecting and storing biological specimens collected from consenting patients could the region join the global clinical trial industry.

He said once collected, the Biobank would be public and open to any number of academic partners to use for research and development.

On Monday, at the inaugural day of the Abu Dhabi Health Week, M42 and the DOH signed deals with Danat Al Emarat Hospital, NMC Healthcare, Kanad Hospital and Corniche Hospital, that will see the major healthcare providers partner with the new Biobank and bring it closer to reality.

“We want to integrate our Abu Dhabi biobank within the global industries of drug discovery and clinical trials by localizing life sciences here,” Elkhani explained.

“This facility enables the drug discovery by having the data, the biological specimens, that are collected from patients to collaborate both locally with academia and internationally with the scientific community and the pharmaceutical industry to develop new drugs that are very specific to our region.”

The facility will be the first of its kind in the Emirate and will consist of a “Cord blood bank” which will collect samples from new-born babies and help create specialised clinical therapeutics.

It will work alongside the “Pan-Human Biobank” which will store a wider array of samples collected from saliva, blood, and other methods from a wide range of subjects.

Experts also the specimens will be crucial to creating a strong primary source of information for future AI utilisations in healthcare.

“The biobank, it allows you to generate a lot of data and AI, of course, lends itself to interrogating that data in a much more sophisticated way,” Dr. Richard Marshall, a physician, scientist, and a highly experienced executive in Pharmaceutical R&D, told Aletihad on Monday.

“One key way in which it does this is that when you are sick, it can tell you which biology is linked to that disease. And it tells you which biology not just for a disease, but then for an individual, so the holy grail is precision medicine, which everybody talks about, and this brings us closer to that.”

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