x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Health research urgently needed for Vision 2030 goals, say experts

Speakers at the Festival of Thinkers have said the capital needs to invest more in medical research to make the Vision 2030 goals a reality.

ABU DHABI // Investing in medical research is crucial to the healthcare pillar of the capital's 2030 vision, experts say.

There are no national statistics available for diseases that are problematic in the region, such as diabetes.

Prof Nick Rawlins, the pro-vice chancellor for development and external affairs at Oxford University, told yesterday's Festival of Thinkers conference data was needed to see the extent of the problems and find ways to tackle them.

"In the end, you've got to have the research. You have to have the evidence," Prof Rawlins said.

The UAE was eager but needed more time to build global status in this field, said Dr Ferid Murad, the director of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Signalling at George Washington University.

"There is a lot of interest in conducting research," Dr Murad said. "Is it successful at the moment? It's early. It takes a while."

To be seen as an equal in the field, he said, the UAE needed to focus on education and technology.

"What you have to do is train people," Dr Murad said. "Some people need to go elsewhere for training, for several years, then hopefully they will come back and have opportunities."

He said research facilities also needed to be improved.

"They want to come back but they're not going to come back if they can't do their work," said Dr Murad. "They need laboratories, instrumentation - the whole thing. And that's going to take a while."

While cheaper alternatives are welcome, the truth is that research is costly, said Dr Michael T McNamara, MD of the Monte-Carlo Life Check Center, who was also on the panel discussion on health.

Great financial losses can be made when trying to create and market new drugs, said the doctor, who described how one large pharmaceutical company spent more than US$1 billion researching a drug to lower cholesterol only to ultimately halt their research.

zalhassani@thenational.ae