x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fellowship will aid UAE research

DUBAI // A medical academic at one of the world's leading universities yesterday called for more medical development and research centres in the UAE to address acute diseases in the Middle East.

Dr Ajay Singh, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical Schoool, said: "There is a need for more research centres in the UAE as there is increasing recognition of how important some problems are such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that one needs to respond to."

As such, the Khalaf al Habtoor Harvard Medical Research Fellowship has been established to offer a qualified MD/PhD graduate the chance to work with Harvard Medical School in an effort to boost research in the UAE.

The fellowship, financed by Khalaf Ahmad al Habtoor, will allow a post-doctoral researcher from the Middle East to work at a laboratory or research centre at Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health or one of the Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospitals in Boston, for up to three years.

Mr al Habtoor said the aim of the fellowship was to encourage youth in the Arab world to get involved in research.

Robin Wheatly, the director of administration and resource development at the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research, said the fellowship was intended to "establish a virtual research initiative, part of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum's vision, connecting different research sites in the region to each other and to Harvard Medical School, using the UAE as a hub".

Mr Wheatly said many common diseases such as diabetes, thalassemia and cardiovascular disease, were "particularly prevalent" in the UAE.

"There is indeed a need for more development centres in the UAE and we're helping to contribute to that," he said.

Harvard Medical School currently has four researchers from the Middle East, including one from the UAE working on breast cancer, and the foundation hopes to identify the next candidate within the next six months.

Dr Singh said the research was UAE-centric and ideally, the candidate would come from the UAE as "it would be good to encourage the development of young talented researchers to come back here and establish their own research programmes and it's a way of being a catalyst to foster research in the region.

"I believe the leadership is responding and there are many projects right now trying to develop programmes that are dealing with diabetes and cardiovascular disease."

Mr Wheatly said: "The researcher will be able to use this as an opportunity to build their own professional network as they come across all kinds of researchers and when they come back home, they will continue to use those connections to build their career."

cmalek@thenational.ae