Press Release

Al Jalila Foundation awards AED 5.4 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 5.4 million in seed grants to 20 UAE-based medical researchers bringing the total investment to date to AED 25 million for 95 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 Medicine and Health Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, University of Sharjah, Khalifa University, Gulf Medical University Ajman, Abu Dhabi University, Erada Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation and Zayed University. One Emirati medical student was also selected to pursue medical research elective fellowship training at Beaumont Hospital in Ireland.

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.”

“Advances in medical research are critical to the nation’s prosperity and 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.” Dr Raja added.

Out of 130 applications submitted for the seed grants in 2018, which represents over 141% increase in the number of applications since the inception of the program, 20 applications were selected following a competitive two-stage review process including international peer review with experts from the world’s most renowned medical institutions. The institutions include 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.

In its fifth cycle grants were awarded across all five themes with the highest number being for cancer which is representative of one of the most serious diseases this generation and leading cause of death. Twelve grants were awarded in the field of cancer, one in cardiovascular disease, three in diabetes, two in obesity, and two in mental health. The funded studies include 6 basic, 11 translational and 3 clinical research projects.

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.”

Two UAE-based researchers funded by Al Jalila Foundation were recently honoured during the third edition of Dubai Healthcare City Authority’s (DHCA) Excellence Awards 2019 presented by HE Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General of Dubai Health Authority.

The ‘Excellence in Healthcare Research Award’ recognizes efforts by scientists funded by DHCC-based organizations to advance research. The Basic Sciences Research Category award, was presented to Taleb H. Al-Tel, a professor from Sharjah University, for his research in the development of a unique 3D chemical molecule that has a significant role in developing lead drug candidates targeting cancer, hyperlipidemia and acting against multidrug-resistant pathogens. The Applied Sciences Research Category award was presented to Leontios Hadjilentiadis, Professor at Khalifa University, for his innovative method to detect depressive disorders through a smart phone application that records four parameters related to keystroke dynamics while the user interacts with the phone’s keyboard.

Al Jalila Foundation was established in 2012 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. Over the last 5 years Al Jalila Foundation has invested AED 25 million to advance medical research and create a platform to support local scientists and researchers.


Summary of research projects funded by Al Jalila Foundation in 2018:

Professor Thomas E Adrian, from Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, to investigate novel drug combinations to treat cancer. (Cancer)

Professor Rabah Iratni, from United Arab Emirates University, investigates the anti-triple negative breast cancers (TNBC) activity of carnosol, a natural compound extracted from culinary plant, through the downregulation of the death-associated protein kinase. (Cancer)

Dr Rania Zaarour, from Gulf Medical University Ajman, aims to study the effects of smoking on remodeling the tumor microenvironment and shaping stemness and immunogenicity in lung cancer. (Cancer)

Dr Sausan Al Kawas, from the University of Sharjah, is evaluating the effects of Dokha smoking on health in the UAE population. (Cardiovascular Disease)

Professor Gulfaraz Khan, United Arab Emirates University, is investigating how the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) induces cell transformation and carcinogenesis with the aim to develop methods of prevention of EBV-associated malignancies. (Cancer)

Dr Jibran Sualeh Muhammad, from University of Sharjah, to address the question of whether estrogen signaling is capable of inducing epigenetic modifications in cancer cells. (Cancer)

Dr Hany Omar, from University of Sharjah, to investigate on metabolic reprogramming as a novel approach to sensitize cancer cells to immunotherapy.  (Cancer)

Dr Mohammed Ghazal, from Abu Dhabi University, to develop a novel software for the early diagnosis and optimal management of diabetic retinal diseases. (Diabetes)

Dr Teresa Arora, from Zayed University, to assess the feasibility and adherence of a sleep improvement intervention for weight loss and its maintenance in sleep impaired obese adults. (Obesity)

Dr Bashair Mohammed Mussa, from University of Sharjah, to investigate the role of FOS and BECLIN1-inducing autophagy in pathogenesis of hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure in diabetes. (Diabetes)

Dr Mohammad Ameen Qasaimeh, from New York University Abu Dhabi, to propose a high-throughput technique that will enable researchers and clinicians with a rapid measurement platform to assess RBCs deformability in diabetic patients. (Diabetes)

Dr Mohamed Rahmani, from University of Sharjah, to study deciphering mechanisms of triple negative breast cancer resistance to PI3K inhibitors. (Cancer)

Dr Ibrahim Elfadel, from Khalifa University, aims to design a wearable system for reliable continuous weight monitoring. (Diabetes)

Dr Mazin Magzoub, from New York University Abu Dhabi, to develop a cancer drug delivery nanoplatform with improved stability, capacity, targeting specificity with superior imaging and real-time monitoring and simultaneous delivery of chemotherapeutics and photosensitizers for enhanced treatment efficacy. (Cancer)

Dr Kirsten Sadler Edepli, from New York University Abu Dhabi, to investigate the role of epigenetic regulator UHRF1 in hepatocyte senescence and liver tumorigenesis by taking Zebrafish as a model. (Cancer)

Dr Riyad Bendardaf, from University of Sharjah, to study the role and therapeutic implications of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDK) 4 and 6 in colorectal cancer in the UAE. (Cancer)

Dr Saba Al Heialy, from Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, aims to identify genes involved in severe asthma and their correlation with the development of early lung cancer. (Cancer)

Dr M Emdadul Haque, from United Arab Emirates University, to deepen an understanding of Parkin and PINK1 in the process of regulating mitochondrial turnover. (Cancer and Mental Health)

Dr Tareq Qassem, from Erada Center for Treatment and Rehab, to evaluate the effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) on behavior of individuals with identified substance abuse disorder. (Mental Health)

Dr Zubaida Shebani, from United Arab Emirates University, aims to study whether or not the activation of the motor system is necessary for language procession. (Mental Health)