Press Release

Al Jalila Foundation awards AED 6 million to advance biomedical research in the UAE

Al Jalila Foundation, a global philanthropic organisation dedicated to transforming lives through medical education and research, announced today that it has awarded AED 6 million in seed grants to 21 UAE-based medical researchers bringing the total investment to date to AED 20 million for 76 research projects. The seed grants focus on research in the field of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and mental health, Al Jalila Foundation’s five research priorities.

The grants were awarded to scientists from medical institutions across the UAE including Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medical Sciences, Dubai Health Authority, United Arab Emirates University, University of Sharjah, Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, and University of Modern Sciences, Dubai. Four Emiratis were also selected to pursue medical research fellowships at renowned international institutions.

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “Since inception Al Jalila Foundation has delivered a number of innovative healthcare programs in education, treatment and research that have benefited people locally – and beyond. Cultivating a cutting-edge environment for medical research in line with our vision to position the UAE at the forefront of medical innovation to improve lives.”

“Al Jalila Foundation Research Centre represents an exciting opportunity to take the next leap forward in medical research. It offers an unrivalled opportunity for the UAE community to come together in our quest to advance scientific knowledge that will help tackle diseases. The promise of this new institute has started building a community of leading scientists that will work together to develop landmark discoveries.”

Her Excellency Dr Raja Al Gurg, Member of the Board of Trustees of Al Jalila Foundation and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Al Jalila Foundation, commented: “Scientists around the world continue to search for answers into the causes, prevention and treatment of diseases affecting mankind. Our investment in medical research reaffirms our commitment to embed research and innovation in the fabric of the nation’s long-term healthcare strategy. Medical research has the potential to save lives and our efforts today will pave the way for a healthier world for future generations.”

Out of 111 applications submitted for the seed grants, which represents over 100% increase in the number of applications since the inception of the program, 21 applications were selected following a competitive two-stage review process including international peer review with experts from the world’s most renowned medical institutions, including University of Oxford, King’s College London, University of Glasgow, Harvard Medical School, University of Pennsylvania, Mayo Clinic, University of Toronto, University of McMaster, University of Alberta, University of Lund, and University of Queensland. The reviewers were handpicked as leading experts in their specific field of research, in line with the commitment from Al Jalila Foundation to grow a biomedical research ecosystem in Dubai built on international best practice.

This cycle the awarded grants are well spread over the five themes as well as representative of the type of research that Al Jalila Foundation supports. Six grants were awarded in the field of cancer, four in cardiovascular disease, four in diabetes, four in obesity, and three in mental health. The funded studies include 9 basic, 7 translational and 5 clinical research projects.

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, added: “Advances in medical research are critical to the nation’s prosperity and this continues to drive our efforts to attract financial support from professionals, philanthropists and corporates in the UAE. Our mission is to inspire medical advancements that will benefit future generations and support our vision to be at the forefront of global medical innovation. Today’s investments in medical research will go a long way to ensuring better treatment options for future generations.”

Four fellowships were awarded comprising one Student Research Elective Fellowship and three Medical Research Training Fellowships. Two Medical Research Training Fellowships have already started their Fellowships at the University of Alabama, USA and Imperial College London, UK. The Fellowships are exclusive to Emirati biomedical students and professionals, offering them the opportunity to gain experience and expertise at an international centre of excellence.

Prof. Sehamuddin Galadari, Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Cell Biology and Chair of Scientific Advisory Committee of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “We are very pleased to see a significant increase in the number and quality of the applications received. This year nearly all Emirates were represented and grants were awarded in all

five research areas supported by Al Jalila Foundation. The successful recipients have been selected following an independent and rigorous competitive selection process engaging international peer review. It is our mission as we progress to bring local and international scientists together to conduct research in the UAE. Our ultimate goal is to elevate the quality and the quantity of research being conducted in the UAE. This is very important in building a knowledge based economy, and transforming the healthcare system to be more research oriented, and hence, improving people’s lives with better treatments.”

Al Jalila Foundation Research Centre was established in 2014 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to position the UAE at the forefront of medical research and innovation. The centre is fully funded by Al Jalila Foundation, a global philanthropic organisation dedicated to transforming lives through medical treatment, education and research.

Summary of research projects and fellowships funded by Al Jalila Foundation:

Dr. Abdelmagyd, from the Gulf Medical University, plans to study the impact of diabetes type 2 on Emirati oral health which is known to have a significant impact on the quality of life of patients. (Diabetes)

Prof. Al-Bastaki, from the Dubai Health Authority, aims to study the physical development and eating habits of Emirati children in order to better understand the prevalence and potential factors of children obesity. (Obesity)

Prof. Al-Ramadi, from the United Arab Emirates University, is evaluating the potential of a known anti-hypertensive agent, ambrisentan, in treating breast cancer. (Cancer)

Dr. Al-Safar, from the Khalifa University of Abu Dhabi, studies the clinic patterns, epidemiological determinants, risk factors and associated genetic predictors of kidney disease in an Emirati population with Diabetes type 2 to allow for earlier and better treatment outcome. (Diabetes)

Prof. Al-Sheikh, from the Mohammed bin Rashid University, is looking for genes causing familial hypercholesterolemia in the Emirati population. (Cardiovascular)

Dr. Al-Yateem, from the University of Sharjah, will pilot a community mental health support service for children and adolescent with chronic conditions and evaluate the feasibility of expanding this service to the UAE. (Mental health)

Prof. Amin, from the United Arab Emirates University, investigates the potential of safranal as a novel therapeutic agent against liver cancer. (Cancer)

Dr. Ansari, from the United Arab Emirates University, studies the effect of maternal obesity on embryonic liver development using human embryonic stem cells. (Obesity)

Dr. Ayad, from the University of Sharjah, investigates the potential of galanin-targeted therapeutics as adjuvant to chemotherapy in colorectal cancer. (Cancer)

Dr. Banerjee, from the Mohammed bin Rashid University, is investigating dabigatran, which is given against irregular heartbeat, in order to understand its role in inflammation and coagulation and potential role in both brain injury and heart attacks. (Cardiovascular)

Prof. Hadjileontiad, from the Khalifa University of Abu Dhabi, investigates the correlation between mental health and the attributes derived from smartphone keystroke dynamics with the goal to develop better diagnosis and monitoring of mental health in young adults. (Mental Health)

Dr. El Gamal, from the University of Sharjah, is developing novel selective steroid sulfates inhibitors and investigating their therapeutic potential in hormone-dependent cancer. (Cancer)

Dr. Haider, from the University of Sharjah, aims to improve the formulation, permeability, bioavailability and efficiency of the chemotherapeutic agents, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, thanks to nanotechnology and thermo-sensitive hydrogels. (Cancer)

Dr. Hamoudi, from the University of Sharjah, is interested in the interplays between Herceptin receptor 2, estrogen and progesterone receptors in breast cancer in Emirati women. (Cancer)

Dr. Jarrar, from University of Modern Sciences, aims to induce melanin biosynthesis in adipose cells in-vitro and in-vivo in oder to study its potential to suppress low-grade inflammation in metabolic syndrome. (Obesity)

Dr. Khalaf, from the Khalifa University of Abu Dhabi, investigates the risk of metabolically healthy obese to develop diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease using traditional systemic inflammatory markers as well as novel physiological and musculoskeletal markers. (Obesity, Diabetes)

Prof. Nemmar, from the United Arab Emirates University, is interested in evaluating the impact of water-pipe smoking on cardiovascular health as well as the potential protective effect of Gum Arabic. (Cardiovascular)

Dr. Shmygol, from the United Arab Emirates University, aims to better understand the mechanism responsible for the positive effect of oxytocin on cardiac electrophysiology. (Cardiovascular)

Prof. Sulaiman, from the University of Sharjah, plans to collect clinical, genetic and immunological data from a newly diagnosed population of diabetic patient in order to improve diagnostic categorization rate and develop personalized treatment. (Diabetes)

Dr. Taneera, from the University of Sharjah, investigates the link between iron and diabetes by studying the molecular and metabolic signature of iron store in pancreatic beta-cells. (Diabetes)

Dr. Uddin, from the Mohammed bin Rashid University, aims to characterize rare pathogenic mutations (deletion) that impact a significant portion of autism spectrum disorders as well as related neurodevelopmental disorders, which will be amenable to genetic, therapeutic interventions. (Mental Health)