Grand Hamdan Award goes to Prof Magid Abou Gharbia for his pioneering work with drug discovery

The winners of the 8th Hamdan Awards with a total value of AED2.8 million (US$760,000) were announced to the press in November in Dubai by Dr Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, the Director of the UAE University and a member of the Board of Trustees of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences, and Professor Najib Al Khaja, the Secretary General of the award.

Speaking at the announcement to the media, Dr Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi said: “Along with the Award’s efforts to support the advancement of the health sector through its Centre for Arab Genomic Studies, Research Support and Community Service Center, Publishing Center and Continuing Medical Education Center, honouring the excellent individuals and institutions remains at the top of the Award’s achievements in which we, the citizens of the United Arab Emirates, all take pride and cherish.”

He noted that the Award, in its current term – 2013-2014 – selected ‘drug discovery’ as the topic of the Grand Hamdan International Award, and targeted therapy, cell therapy and vaccines as the topics of the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence. “Heightened global interest in these topics is clear evidence that our scientific committee had the foresight to select such topics for this award two years ago in December 2012, but of course it is not just a fortuitous choice, it was rather based on a systematic analysis of data from the healthcare sector worldwide,” he explained.

The Grand Hamdan Award went to Professor Magid Abou Gharbia, the Associate Dean for Research, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Director of the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research (MCDDR) at the School of Pharmacy, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, for his work with drug discovery.

The awards for Medical Research Excellence were given to: Professor Stanley A. Plotkin, Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and Executive Advisor to Sanofi Pasteur, for his work with vaccines; Professor Carl June, the Program Director of Translational Research, Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, for his research on cell therapy; Professor Olle Ringden, distinguished professor at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. For over a decade, he worked as the director and medical director at the Center for Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplantation at the Huddinge University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden – for his work with cell therapy; and Professor Brian J Druker, a physician-scientist at the Oregon Health & Science University, director of OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research, and professor of medicine – for his research on targeted therapy.

The Hamdan Award for Volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services went to the Carter Center, United States; Noor Dubai Foundation, UAE; Dr Mads Fredrik Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor, activist and politician from the far left revolutionary socialist party Red - Norway; and Dr Melvin Korkor, an Ebola survivor and now carer in Liberia.

The Hamdan Award for Medical College/ Institute or Centre in the Arab World was awarded to: College of Medicine & Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Sultanate of Oman; and Mongi Ben Hamida National Institute of Neurology, Tunisia.

The Hamdan Award for Distinguished Personalities in the Arab World was given to: Professor Mohamed Ghoneim, one of the founders of the Ghoneim Urology and Nephrology Center (a WHO Collaborating Centre for Management of Renal and Urological Disorders), Mansoura, Egypt; and Dr Zohair Yousef Al Halees, a paediatric heart surgeon working in the Heart Centre at King Faisal Specialist & Research Centre in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Hamdan Award for Outstanding Clinical Department in the Public Sector in the UAE was awarded to: the Department of Pediatrics, Tawam Hospital, Al Ain; and the Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery Centre, Dubai Hospital.

The Hamdan Award for Original Research Paper Published in the Hamdan Medical Journal went to: Dr Sirag Bennaser, a Libyan physician and medical researcher, for his research paper entitled: “In vitro interactions between rodent hepatic stellate cells and metastatic and non-metastatic human colorectal cancer cell lines.”

DHA announces plans to regulate healthcare pricing

The who’s who of the healthcare world gathered in Dubai on 3 November to debate the changing face of healthcare at the 2nd Annual Healthcare Investment MENA, as part of the AccuMed Connect panel discussion.

Key individuals governing the health authority across the UAE came together with healthcare providers and healthcare insurers to address the issues related to pricing in the healthcare industry and how this is affecting the sector as a whole and more importantly, the service that consumers are receiving.

The panel was made up of: Dr. Haidar Al Yousuf, CEO Health Funding, Dubai Health Authority, UAE; Marwan Nabulsi, Director, Health System Finances, Health Authority Abu Dhabi, UAE; Eng. Sobhi Batterjee, Founder President & CEO, Saudi German Hospitals Group, KSA; Dr. Sami Alom, Chief Strategy Officer, Al Noor Hospital Group, UAE; André Daoud, Chief Business Officer, NEXt- CARE, UAE; Dr. Sherif A. Mahmoud, Regional Head, Medical Operations, AXA Gulf, KSA.

Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, CEO of Funding, DHA, said that the emirate’s healthcare industry was in a “state of transition” when he addressed the opening day of conference at The Address Hotel, Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE. He announced that as of next year, the DHA will implement a regulation to control the price increases by healthcare providers. He clarified that the new regulation will address price increases only, but the Dubai Health Authority will not be responsible for setting minimum and maximum prices.

Dr Haidar added: “This is a healthcare system in a state of transition. It is a new process for the region, aimed at moving the market away from the fee for service model, focusing on pay for quality. These are definitely changing times and all the stakeholders in the system need to change the way they do business. The DHA is obviously trying to strike a balance between regulating processes, but at the same time, keeping the free market spirit of Dubai.”

Delegates also had the chance to hear about how the healthcare pricing system works in other Emirates in the UAE. Abu Dhabi was the first Emirate to introduce a basic price list and to cap the multiplier for the reimbursement rate of services.

Looking at Abu Dhabi experience in this area, Nabulsi, from the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi, said: “In Abu Dhabi, 60 to 70% of AUH claims are paid for by the government. With this in mind, the ceiling is a necessity.”

American Heart Association opens office at Dubai Healthcare City

Dubai Healthcare City announced in December the opening of the Middle East and North Africa office of the American Heart Association. The American Heart Association, a nonprofit based in the United States and the world’s largest volunteer organization dedicated to cardiovascular health, trains more than 16 million people a year globally in lifesaving first aid, CPR and advanced cardiovascular care.

The American Heart Association’s courses are designed to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke – leading causes of death in the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East and North Africa. The organization has been serving the area and operating in the UAE for six years.

The office, located at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center, Dubai Healthcare City’s dedicated academic complex, works with 212 American Heart Association-affiliated training centers and sites that provide lifesaving training courses in the region. The new office will facilitate American Heart Association program development in the region designed to help more people live healthier, longer lives.

“Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the UAE and the region,” said Marwan Abedin, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Healthcare City. “It is essential that more health professionals are equipped with the necessary training to help increase survival from heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association is an important partner for us as we look for avenues to improve medical education for healthcare professionals and medical students among others.”

Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association, praised the development. “The mission of the American Heart Association is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and we are committed to the expansion of science-based lifesaving training solutions in the UAE. It’s very exciting that through collaboration with our colleagues in the UAE we are together bringing more lifesaving skills to the region.”

Emirates Islamic sets up philanthropic initiative for DHA

Emirates Islamic, one of the leading Islamic financial institutions in the UAE, has announced a philanthropic community initiative to collect donations on behalf of Dubai Health Authority (DHA) for their MOSA’ADAH charity programme.

MOSA’ADAH, a charity program created by DHA, aims to help patients and families who cannot afford medical treatment, as well as contribute to projects in support of hospital equipment and medical facilities.

As part of this initiative, Emirates Islamic customers can donate funds to MOSA’ADAH under a specially created charity account: Emirates Islamic 0384 540010 001 under ’MOSA’ADAH’. Donations can be made through any Emirates Islamic branch, ATM or CDM across the UAE or via online banking and by SMS.

Jamal Bin Ghalaita, Chief Executive Officer of Emirates Islamic said: “The UAE is home to people across different nationalities and income groups. As a home-grown brand with a deep commitment to the values and ethics of Shari’a, Emirates Islamic is keen to offer fellow citizens a safe and reliable way to connect to others in need. Our decision to partner with MOSA’ADAH complements the bank’s efforts to promote community related participation.”

“We invite our customers to contribute to the MOSA’ADAH charity programme using one of our secure, direct and easy donation channels,” added Bin Ghalaita. His Excellency Engineer Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor, Director-General of the DHA, emphasised the importance of this announcement, which reflects a real partnership model between the public and private sector as they move towards supporting charity initiatives and assisting patients in need. He also highlighted DHA’s commitment towards ensuring that all members of the community have access to adequate healthcare services, in addition to improving the health status of the population through DHA’s hospitals and health centres.

Sidra applies for first-ever patent covering use of MRI techniques to monitor cancer cells

Doha-based Sidra Medical and Research Center (Sidra) in November announced its first patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The application is for the first non-invasive technique for monitoring cancer progression, a procedure which could positively impact treatment methodologies for patients.

The technique, invented by Sidra researchers Dr Francesco Marincola and Dr Mohamed Haris, is for the use of noninvasive Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to detect levels of the Creatine Kinase (CK) enzyme inside a patient’s cancerous tissue. CK is an enzyme found in the heart, brain, skeletal muscle and other tissues. Patients suffering from cancer tend to have higher levels of CK; measuring the presence of which helps determine existence or progression of cancer.

Sidra’s new procedure has both diagnostic and patient management implications. The MRI-based technique requires patients to receive an injection of phosphocreatine solution, which is visualized by an MRI, helping doctors get a clear image of what is happening inside. It will help assess whether a tumour is benign or aggressive without the need for a biopsy. This will have a significant impact on the treatment and recovery times of patients as it has the potential to help them embark on required treatment programs faster - particularly if CK expressions determine tumour malignancy. Using diagnostic markers determined through this technique will also help in drug design; enabling clinicians to see which drug combinations are most effective, as well as in monitoring patients’ medication intake.

“While there are other techniques being used to monitor CK activity, there is no current method which can provide highresolution imaging of CK expression in a patient’s cancerous tissue. Detection of CK expression in vivo, meaning inside the patient’s tissue without the need for sample removal, provides a definite diagnostic marker for tumour malignancy, as well as response to treatment. Our invention will allow for routine examinations of cancer patients and improve the ability to track cancer progression by increasing detection sensitivity and delivering a high-resolution image of what’s happening inside,” said Dr Haris, Principal Investigator, Sidra Medical and Research Center.

“We’re looking forward to embarking on the next phase – clinical trials – so that all the measures and protocols are in place before this new technique is ready for launch. While there is a possibility that further trials and research can take time, we are excited to showcase that Sidra is a serious contender in the research genre. This patent is testament to the commitment and dedication of the Sidra research team and our efforts to bring pioneering research capabilities to Qatar,” said Dr Marincola, Chief Research Officer, Sidra Medical and Research Center.

Sidra’s first patent comes as the stateof- the-art women’s and children’s facility moves ahead with its research focus around prioritizing translational research programs and supporting clinicians in the practice of personalized medicine. Sidra’s mission is to conduct innovative research relevant to women’s and children’s health that addresses Qatar’s national priorities by enhancing the quality of life for its citizens. As such, most of the programs undertaken by the Research Branch will support the concept of personalized medicine and revolutionize the approach to patient care. Other world-class research programs that are underway include a study to determine contributing factors to developing gestational diabetes and Sidra’s participation in the Qatar Genome Project.

Iraq joins USP Global Program to assist with medicine quality testing

The National Center for Drug Control and Research (NCDCR) of Iraq is the newest participant in a U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) program designed to assist developing countries improve medicine quality.

“Joining USP’s Technical Assistance Program is an important step for increasing Iraq’s capacity to ensure the safety and efficacy of medicines for its people,” said Ahmed Al-shather, Ph.D., director of NCDCR. “A large part of protecting the health of Iraq’s citizens is making sure that good quality medicines are accessible.”

USP’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) provides participating nations with public written standards, associated reference standards (very pure physical samples used as reference chemicals) and the technical training needed to test the quality of pharmaceutical products. TAP also provides training on screening for counterfeit and substandard medicines in the market.

According to Patrick Lukulay, Ph.D., vice president of USP’s global health impact programs: “TAP was developed by USP to provide tools for quality testing that would help increase the capacity of developing countries with limited resources. By strengthening its own internal capacity for monitoring medicine quality, each nation participating in TAP can improve access to good quality medicine, reduce the burden of disease and, ultimately, promote public health.”

With only 10% of its medicine supply manufactured locally, Iraq is heavily reliant on imported medicines. As the national quality control laboratory of Iraq, NCDCR is responsible for conducting physical, chemical and biological tests on drugs to ensure their quality, regardless of whether these products come from domestic or international sources.

USP and other pharmacopeias typically sell reference and written quality standards for use by pharmaceutical manufacturers and quality control laboratories. National quality control laboratories with limited resources may not have access to up-to-date documented standards and associated materials needed for effective quality testing. The USP Technical Assistance Program is intended to address this.

TAP began in 2011 with just five countries in Africa – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and Sierra Leone – and since then has expanded to include more than 35 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

World Innovation Summit for Health supports Universal Health Coverage Day

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a global initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), lent its support to the first ever Universal Health Coverage Day which took place on 12 December.

In a statement, WISH said they were proud to stand alongside more than 500 partner organizations from over 100 countries, including World Health Organization, Oxfam and Save the Children in calling for fair healthcare for all.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is the basic concept that every person, everywhere, should have access to healthcare without suffering financial hardship. This essential human right is a cornerstone of sustainable development and global security. Recognised as a subject of such importance, the World Bank Group has identified UHC as a top priority for sustainable development.

Recent research looking into the health of 2035 showed that for every US$1 invested in health today, we could reap US$20 increase in income over the next 20 years. To date more than 80 countries have asked the World Health Organization (WHO) for help in moving toward UHC, including the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Commenting on the significance of universal healthcare coverage, Professor The Lord Darzi of Denham, Executive Chair of WISH and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College of London, said: “This essential human right of healthcare is a cornerstone of thriving communities, sustainable development and global security – that today, one billion people still live without access to good healthcare is shocking. The policy report that we will publish on UHC in February 2015 will provide recommendations for policymakers to implement much needed change in how healthcare is financed and delivered.”

Qatar Biobank receives two ISO certifications

Qatar Biobank has recently been certified with two International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications by the British Standards Institute Group Middle East (BSI).

As a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), Qatar Biobank supports QF’s mission to ensure that Qatar addresses national health priorities, by enabling research on the causes of diseases that prevail in Qatar.

Qatar Biobank is one of the first Qatar Foundation centres to receive the two qualifications - ISO 9001 and ISO 27001, addressing Quality Management Systems and Information Security Management respectively.

Working with the Supreme Council of Health, Hamad Medical Corporation and supported by scientists from Imperial College London, Qatar Biobank will enable medical research on health issues that prevail in Qatar.

Omar Rashid, General Manager of BSI, issued the two ISO certifications to Qatar Biobank at the Certification Ceremony held at the Qatar Foundation Student Center in Education City. The ceremony was attended by Qatar Biobank staff members, Members of the Board, key stakeholders and partners.

Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of contributors to Qatar Biobank, who volunteer health information and biological samples is integral. Qatar Biobank has put rigorous confidentiality processes in place and the ISO certification helps ensure that the samples collected are fit for purpose and provide important assurances to participants.

With Qatar Biobank set for the wide-scale public launch next year, having collected health information and biological samples from more than 1,700 members of the local community, the ISO certification represents a significant milestone, equipping the organisation to welcome more participants.

“As part of our ramp-up phase, the increase in participants will be significant. Achieving this international certification is integral in paving the way for Qatar Biobank to develop innovative scientific outputs that can be applied globally in accordance with industry best practice,” said Dr Hadi Abderrahim, Managing Director of Qatar Biobank.

Tamer El Nashar, Information Technology Project Manager at Qatar Biobank, said: “The ISO certification equips us to be ready to collect the depth and breadth of quality samples and information, which will allow researchers across research centres in Qatar to advance the understanding of human health and disease.”

Sanofi opens production facility in King Abdullah Economic City

Two years after the laying of the first stone, Sanofi announced 10 December 2014 the opening of its production facility in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) industrial valley, making it one of the first multinational pharmaceutical groups to produce locally in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Sanofi has had a strong presence in Saudi Arabia for half a century with offices in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. Over the five past years, the company has increased its investments and contributions in the Kingdom through numerous partnerships designed to improve the health of Saudi patients, particularly in the field of chronic diseases. The opening of a manufacturing facility was therefore a natural next step and KAEC was chosen as the location due to the pro-business and competitive environment of the region. The new factory is creating jobs for Saudi citizens and transfers Sanofi technology for the benefit of the Kingdom and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Commenting on the opening of the plant, Philippe Luscan, Sanofi Executive Vice President Global Industrial Affairs, said: “We are delighted to open this facility, together with King Abdullah Economic City and the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority as our strategic partners. As a pioneer, we built a plant designed to produce up to 20 million packs of locally-made high quality medical treatments which will benefit the needs of the regional community, through an adapted life cycle management. We are proud to share Sanofi’s technology knowledge and industrial culture of quality, customer service, respect for environment and safety with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

”Producing locally is the best way to fulfil patient local needs, hiring and training local technicians and managers,” he added.

Speaking about Sanofi’s decision to invest in Saudi Arabia, Mohanud Helal, Secretary General of the Economic Cities Authority, stated: “This inauguration also positions KAEC as a hub for pharmaceuticals and life sciences industries in the region. The Economic Cites, with its unique regulatory regime and streamlined government services, is rightfully positioned to offer an attractive investment environment in the region.”


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