UAE Report

Al Jalila Foundation – elevating medical research in the UAE


Medical research has paved the way for human advancement throughout history. From the development of the germ theory of disease in the 19th century, which led to cures for many infectious diseases, to the ground-breaking discovery of antibiotics in the mid-20th century, it has played a fundamental role in fostering a healthy and secure society for generations. In today’s world, medical research plays an important role in supporting economic development in advanced and developing countries.

So why is medical research so important to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country that has achieved more growth and prosperity in several decades than some countries have in a century, without many natural resources and against all the odds?

The UAE’s outstanding economic success cannot be enjoyed without the good health of its people and their families. To develop a healthcare system which generates solutions and treatments that are relevant to the region and to foster a society where preventative medicine is a part of everyday life would be a priceless achievement, and one that will benefit families in the UAE for generations to come. The greatest gift that we can offer our children is the security of a world-class healthcare sector.

Al Jalila Foundation was founded on 1 April 2013 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 innovation. As a healthcare philanthropic organisation, we are committed to transforming lives through pioneering advancements in medical education, research and treatment.

The Foundation was named after Her Highness Sheikha Al Jalila Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the daughter of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Chairperson of Dubai Healthcare City Authority. Sheikha Al Jalila acts as a reminder of the important role young people play in shaping the UAE’s future. The development of a world-class medical research sector with home-grown leaders will help foster this ambition. Moreover, to attract future generations into the world of medical research, it is important that we cultivate the right infrastructure for them to prosper in.

In May 2014, on the first anniversary of Al Jalila Foundation, we announced the Al Jalila Foundation Research Centre, the UAE’s first independent multi-disciplinary medical research centre, dedicated to developing cutting-edge research to tackle five health priorities prevalent in the UAE: diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and mental health. The Centre, located at Dubai Healthcare City, is set to open in 2016 and will provide young people with a platform to learn from leading international and local scientists. This will be the first example of biomedical research in Dubai, which will bring about collaborations nationally and internationally. Hence, it will act as a beacon for regionally-relevant medical innovation produced by home-grown biomedical researchers.

Fellowship and seed grants

To spur an interest in medical research, we have assigned an AED 8 million (US$2.18 million) fund for fellowship and seed grants this year. The seed grants are available to all nationalities (provided that they conduct their research in the UAE) and will give researchers the opportunity to investigate regional health issues through basic science, translational or clinical research projects.

The fellowships are available exclusively to Emirati biomedical professionals, offering them the opportunity to study at world-renowned institutions on either a three-month Student Research Elective, or a yearlong Research Training Support programme, with the aim of migrating global best practice to the UAE.

At Al Jalila Foundation we believe that science has no borders and will flourish through global collaboration, knowledge transfer and continuous innovation. Our vision is to develop a world-class medical research sector in the UAE, and to do so we need to model ourselves on international best practice.

In conjunction with the launch of the Al Jalila Foundation Research Centre in May 2014, we hosted an international scientific symposium that brought together a group of renowned international and local biomedical scientists to discuss their latest research findings. The symposium included scientists from the Stony Brook Cancer Center in the US, and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in Korea, and UAE University.

Despite its potential to deliver lifetransforming results, it is no secret that medical research is a long-term commitment that requires huge investments in infrastructure, people and research programmes. If we look at global benchmarks such Harvard Medical School, we find medical research budgets that are beyond $2 billion. For us to reach that level of support that will enable a thriving research environment, we are conscious that we will need nation-wide support, particularly from influential visionaries who are keen on achieving a sustainable future for the nation. Luckily, we live in one of the most generous societies in the world and we believe that the support we are seeking is within reach.

Majlis Al Ata’a

Building on that observation, we launched one of the most exciting, collective philanthropic movements in the UAE and the wider region. Majlis Al Ata’a, meaning the Majlis of Giving, which aims to marshal the goodwill, influence and financial capability of a circle of prominent business professionals, philanthropists and organisations towards medical research in the UAE as a common national goal.

Majlis Al Ata’a is designed to encourage sustainable investment into medical research. It was launched by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Al Jalila Foundation. To be part of the circle of visionaries, a minimum contribution of AED 1 million to Al Jalila Foundation’s medical research programmes is required, indicating long-term commitment to the nation’s prosperity.

We are proud to have already welcomed a number of distinguished members to Majlis Al Ata’a, including Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Raja Easa Al Gurg, Abdul Ghaffar Hussein, Riyadh Sadek, Mohamed Al Ansari, Siddharth Balachandran, Dubai Holding and INDEX Holding. These medical research patrons will not only provide financial support to medical research, but they will also promote it as a culture through their networks, so it becomes the nation-wide dialogue it deserves to be. In our commitment to excellence in healthcare, our medical research aspirations are complemented by our support for medical education and treatment.

In education, we support Emirati nationals wishing to pursue postgraduate studies through scholarships in a range of medical sciences – from healthcare management to dentistry. We have committed an annual budget of AED 4 million to build national medical capacities through our scholarships programme. Many of our current 17 scholarship recipients are Emirati mothers who are unable to travel abroad and continue their studies due to family commitments. Providing them with the opportunity to further their education at world-class local universities has had a hugely positive impact on their lives. We are nurturing a home-grown generation of medical professionals who will one day be the leaders in their respective fields in the UAE.

In October 2013 we launched Ta’alouf (‘harmony’ in Arabic), our flagship community programme to support carers of children with special needs to enhance their quality of life and their families. As the first carer, advocate and educator, a parent plays a significant role in the development of a child. With this in mind, we launched our parents training and the first in a series of Ta’alouf programmes, developed to empower parents with life-changing skills.

The course, in partnership with The British University in Dubai (BUiD), aims to enable parents to complement the efforts of educators and caregivers to ensure a continuum of care between the child’s home and school. Over 140 parents from 19 different nationalities have already benefited from this programme.

Our aim is to grow that number to 800 parents over the coming five to seven years. To complement the support we are providing to children with special needs at home, we are launching our teachers training in September this year. In partnership with Zayed University, the programme will include classroom-based practical sessions and mentoring phases and will take place across more than 20 private and governmental schools across the UAE, targeting 128 teachers at the first level.


We are also directly addressing medical challenges faced in today’s world. To complement the work we do with medical education and research, we developed A’awen (‘support’ in Arabic), a programme which offers practical assistance and financial aid to those under-served in society. We work directly with healthcare partners in the UAE on specific treatment programmes which cater to UAE-based patients without access to quality healthcare. So far, we have helped more than 20 patients to receive advanced medical care for their complex health issues.

It is worth mentioning that 100% of funds raised by Al Jalila Foundation go directly towards our programmes and with the generous support of leaders, businesses, and members of the public, we have already made great strides in advancing medical innovation in the UAE. The UAE is a nation whose ambition for success has driven rapid growth and prosperity. From construction and aviation, to retail and finance, we have become world leaders in many industries and secured a bright future for our children.

Al Jalila Foundation has big dreams for the future of medical research in the UAE. Members of the public are realising that medical research is the backbone of the future and that investment in our future health is fundamental to our quality of life.

- For more information about our programmes and how to support our work please email Al Jalila Foundation: or visit the website:

About the author

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama is the Chief Executive Officer of Al Jalila Foundation. He is a graduate of United Arab Emirates University with a Bachelor’s degree in General Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Healthcare Management from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

 Date of upload: 16th Sep 2014


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