Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, announced that it will establish the UAE’s first robotic biobank, in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). The collaboration is set to advance medical research in the areas of genetic disorders, cancer, and other chronic diseases and pandemics.
Set to open in 2023 with a capacity to manage seven million specimens, the biobank will be one of the world’s largest in terms of sample capacity. The facility will be located at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Research Institute, part of Al Jalila Foundation, in Dubai Healthcare City.
Due to the vital role biobanks play in progressing research and advancing medical discovery, the biobank will become an indispensable resource for the new Hamdan Bin Rashid Cancer Charity Hospital and other healthcare facilities in the UAE to conduct research and offer effective treatment.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Al Jalila Foundation Board of Trustees, said: “Access to genetic and imaging data through biobanks is driving forward pioneering approaches to analysis that would have been impossible just a few years ago. The launch of the UAE’s first robotic biobank reflects Dubai’s commitment to strengthening the capabilities of the healthcare sector and advancing efforts to improve people’s health. The biobank will serve as a major contributor to the advancement of modern medicine and will enable scientific discoveries that will help enhance the health and wellbeing of the community.”
A biobank is a place to store all types of human biological samples, such as blood, tissue, cells, or body fluids. It also stores data related to the samples as well as other biomolecular resources that can be used in health research. Biobanks have become an important resource in medical research, supporting many types of contemporary research like genomics and personalised medicine, and the development of diagnostics and therapeutics.
Her Excellency Dr. Raja Easa Al Gurg, Chairperson of Al Jalila Foundation Board of Directors and Member of the Board of Trustees, said: “Biobanking is a game-changer for healthcare and will revolutionise medical research, leading to better outcomes for patient treatment. The biobank will provide an opportunity for people in the community and researchers to work together to build a better, healthier future for generations to come. Scientific progress will shape the nation’s economy by influencing our knowledge about human health, disease, therapeutics, personalised medicine, and more.”
Al Jalila Foundation is investing AED17 million ($4.6 million) to build a state-of-the-art facility and will manage seven million human biological materials. An automated, robotic, Artificial Intelligence based system will ensure biological samples are secured in cryogenic storage (below 80 degrees Celsius) maintaining proper sample integrity and retrieval.
Dr. Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “Biorepositories are places where you can store patient samples and really serve as a hub of collaboration between scientists for doing either population health studies or looking at cohorts of patients who have specific diseases and trying to find better therapeutics and diagnostics to treat patients and save lives.”
Patient confidentiality will be a priority in line with UAE’s laws and regulations. The biological and medical data will be used by scientists for research to make new discoveries about common and life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke in order to improve public health.
Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Deputy Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority said: “The establishment of the robotic biobank is a clear reflection of Dubai’s vision for advancing healthcare and being at the forefront of discovery. I am confident the planned biobank will bring significant value to the healthcare system in Dubai and the region. It is a clear example of how the integration of care with discovery, supported by advancement, can set the foundation for better outcomes for our current and future patients.”
The UAE’s diverse population, with people from varied ethnicities and nationalities, will provide a valuable platform for comparative studies on genetic, environmental, nutritional habits, and behavioral aspects. Biobanks can give researchers access to data representing a large number of people. Samples in biobanks and the data derived from those samples can often be used by multiple researchers for cross-purpose research studies.
The UAE’s first robotic biobank will attract strategic collaboration opportunities with key healthcare authorities and partners across the region and globally. The collaborations will support pioneering biomedical research and accelerate medical discoveries to transform patients’ lives.
It will operate in the best practices in biobanking and adhere to the highest compliance regulations and ethical standards for the collection, processing, storage and analysis of biological samples and data for research into genetic and environmental factors that impact on human health and disease.