Sandooq Al Watan Partners with Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences to Promote Research into Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday 18 May 2019
Abu Dhabi - MENA Herald:

Sandooq Al Watan, the national initiative launched by prominent Emirati businessmen to support research projects for the post-oil era, is partnering with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) to promote research into Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The research project is the second to be awarded under the SWARD programme, part of Sandooq Al Watan’s platform. Now in its second cycle, SWARD seeks to bridge the gap between academia and industry in the UAE to deliver tangible social and economic outcomes to the country. It supports projects across four priority areas: Aerospace and Defence, Water Management, Healthcare and Genomics, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

His Excellency Mohamed Al Qadhi, General Manager of Sandooq Al Watan, said: “Sandooq Al Watan has set a strategic goal for itself to cooperate with various government and private-sector entities in the UAE to drive forward our mission and offer all forms of support to innovative researchers with ideas to ensure the UAE’s sustainable development.”

“In line with the Year of Tolerance and the Special Olympics that was hosted in the UAE we believe this project is extremely important to people of determination and the community, and we are delighted to be working with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences to strengthen research into Autism Spectrum Disorder, which affects 1 in every 59 children” H.E. added. “The advanced research we look forward to fostering in partnership with the University is part of our endeavours to build a knowledge-based national economy and enhance the UAE’s contribution to the global R&D output.”

For his part, Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Dean of College of Medicine and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at MBRU, said: “We are very excited by the opportunity to partner with Sandooq Al Watan in their support of research at MBRU. We are particularly proud of our medical students who are part of the scientific team led by Dr. Mohammed Uddin. Research is a key strategic pillar for MBRU, and we firmly believe that advancing the research agenda in the UAE is critically dependent on partnerships and support from the community at large.”

The programme seeks to address complexities surrounding the correlation between genetics and ASD, and to implement a robust machine intelligence (MI) algorithm to decipher the polygenic risk factor of ASD by computing gene-gene interactions from genomic data. The cutting-edge design of the proposed project integrates human genetics and genetic engineering with MI and, ultimately, translates knowledge into therapeutics and healthcare.

At present, there are no biologically driven therapeutic options for ASD that can affect the core symptoms. Meanwhile, costs related to caring for the health and social needs of individuals with ASD in UAE are as high as AED40,000 per month. The programme allows us to identify polygenic risk factors and proteins that respond to therapeutics, which enables us to more comprehensively evaluate the underlying pathophysiology and promote precision-medicine-driven treatments for ASD.

The joint research project is part of the SWARD programme, itself under the umbrella of Sandooq Al Watan’s platform, which seeks to support R&D across all sectors, including aviation and space travel, water management and genomics, among others, to come up with innovative solutions, patents or prototypes that can create the next generation of highly competitive UAE companies to rival international giants like google, Tesla and others.

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