Qatar Genome Project to bring personalised medicine closer
October 29 2016 09:33 PM
Prof Omar El-Agnaf
Prof Omar El-Agnaf

A Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI) scientist has embarked on a study to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease by analysing the data available at the Qatar Genome Programme.

According to a top QBRI official, Qatar Genome Programme can take the country closer to personalised medicine.

Speaking to Gulf Times, Prof Omar El-Agnaf, acting executive director of QBRI, one of the three research institutes under Hamad Bin Khalifa University ( HBKU) explained: “The Qatar Genome Programme is a great initiative, not just in Qatar but across the whole region. The aim of the project is to sequence the whole Qatari population and it will take us closer to personalised medicine.”

Prof El-Agnaf pointed out that the hard work in the project is in analysing the data. He noted: "It is not just sequencing the genes but analysing the data that is where the real and hard work starts. Our scientists have got the approval to access the data and have worked and put time into the analysis of it.”

“We recently signed a contract to deal with the project. We have got the first project now which is led by one of the geneticists we recruited from Edinburgh University, Scotland, one of the leading universities in Europe,” he disclosed.

“He is going to lead what is called the “genome-wide association study” for the Qatar Genome Programme. This is an approach that involves rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of genomes to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease,”elaborated the official.

Qatar Genome Programme is an initiative that aims to use the latest DNA sequencing technology to establish a genome map of the local population. The programme was announced by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, during the World Innovation Summit on Health (WISH) 2013.

Prof El-Agnaf continued, “A whole population-based project like this has happened only in Iceland so far. Once completed, Qatar will be the next country that will be developing such a highly advanced programme.”

According to Prof El-Agnaf, personalised medicine has become a reality now in cancer. “There are some types of cancer where people carry mutation in specific genes. There is a specific treatment that works only for that mutated gene. It is an area that is developing really fast and it is going to be used more and more in the future,” he highlighted.

“This is the beginning and more QBRI scientists will be involved in the projects of the Qatar Genome Programme. More geneticists also will be joining QBRI to further study and work with the genome project and analyse the data,” he added.

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