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News & Press Release - 2010
Arab Genomic Studies
Health Minister opens 3rd Pan Arab Human Genetics Conference
14 Mar 2010

Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh "Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum" Deputy Ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of Finance and President of Dubai Health Authority, H.E. Dr. "Hanif Hassan", UAE Minister of Health, Chairman-Board of Directors at Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Award for Medical Sciences, inaugurated in today the "3rd Pan Arab Human Genetics Conference", that is organized by the "Center for Arab Genomic Studies", a division of "Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences", in Dubai.

The two-day conference will discuss the latest genome research activities in the Arab Region with the participation of specialists and consultants who will present 150 research papers from 36 Arab and foreign countries. The conference is attended by a large number of doctors, decision makers, and doctors under training, academics and students of medical colleges, nurses, and laboratory technicians.

The Minister said the Award had laid down proper scientific and practical plans to advance medical and genetic sciences not only in the UAE but also across the Arab World. He said Sheikh hamdan, patron of the Award, established the Centre in 2003 to develop research on human genetics and boost relations of cooperation between genetic researchers in the region and the world.

In the Arab World, genetic diseases represent a major public health problem. Several factors contribute to the wide prevalence of genetic disorders in the region including the high rate of consanguinity, social trend to have more children until menopause, selective factors favoring inherited disease characters like thalassemia and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, and the lack of public awareness towards the early recognition and prevention of inherited disease.

The vision of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to alleviate human suffering from genetic diseases in the Arab World crystallized in the establishment of the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS) to characterize and prevent genetic disorders and transfigure the future practice of health care in the region.

Some of the priority objectives of the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies are to educate the public and professionals alike on the important impact of genetic diseases in the Arab World and the methods and benefits of early genetic diagnosis. The Centre for Arab Genomic Studies also plans to provide comprehensive genetic services by translating research achievements into well-integrated patient treatment programs. Concurrently, it will also address the ethical, legal, and social issues that may arise with the implementation of such programs.

This year's conference is highly supported by the World Health Organization "WHO" through the participation of the Regional Advisor for Research Policy at the WHO Regional Office for the Middle East in Cairo, Egypt. In addition, this year's research papers are characterized by their high quality materials that reflect the status of scientific development of Arab scientists in this field.

Dr. Mohammad Afzal Research Policy and Cooperation, Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, World Health Organization, Cairo, Egypt, spoke about Governance Challenges of Genomic Applications in Healthcare Systems. He said "Exponentially growing human genomics research and its commercial involvement in the present century has created a significant number of policy challenges, such as patenting, genetic testing and genetic information. These new topics of genomics governance have not been taken up seriously in the already operating or emerging institutional structures of policy making in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. Besides, he added there exists a gap between policy challenges and institutional responses and even with meager genomic research in the Region that might lead to growing social opposition against genomics. The healthcare systems, therefore, must have institutional basis to determine the clinical parameters and real potential of genetic testing application in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, and priority setting mechanism for scientific and social policy research. In the meantime, research ethics committees and advocates should develop ethical frameworks to encourage innovation, while protecting research participants and patients from potential harm.