Institute builds on 10 years of genomics research to address the under-representation of the Arab genome and unravel a more representative map of the human race

DOHA, Qatar, May 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, officially launched the Qatar Precision Health Institute, a national body aimed at leveraging the country’s advanced genomics research to accelerate personalized healthcare – leading to more precise treatments and improved health outcomes for people in the Arab world and beyond.

QPHI will translate cutting-edge genomics and other omics data into research to directly benefit patients. Credit: AR Al-Baker.

The Qatar Precision Health Institute builds on the groundbreaking work of Qatar Biobank and Qatar Genome Programme, uniting the efforts of Qatar Foundation’s research institutes to provide insights that reveal the effects of lifestyle, environment, and genetics on the Arab population.

Her Highness, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, spoke at the formal launch event, emphasizing the importance of raising public awareness on the benefits of precision health. She said:

“I am proud that Qatar was the first country in the region to establish a population-based genome program, and has played a pioneering role in ensuring that Arab genomes are included in global genomic databases. Qatar’s efforts have led to faster and more accurate diagnoses of multiple diseases for people from the region. QPHI is building on those successes and taking our knowledge forward to implement clinical solutions that will lead to a healthier future not only for our citizens but for people around the world.”

Qatar Foundation’s work in the field of precision health led to the creation of the Qatari genome catalog, comprising more than 88 million variants, 24 million of which had never been reported previously in international databases.

Dr. Said Ismail, Acting President of QPHI, said:

“The Middle East is home to more than 400 million people, and is one of the world’s oldest inhabited regions, yet it is the most underrepresented in genome sequencing, as over 95% of available genome data comes from Western Europe and North America. Through research and clinical trials conducted at QPHI, we aim to improve the representation of Arab genomes in these datasets, empowering scientists to unravel the complete map of genomes that define the allelic spectrum of the human race, including Africa, East and Southeast Asia.”

QPHI will advance the study of the Arab genome through recruiting Qataris and long-time residents in large numbers, analyzing their biological samples, as well as information about their health and lifestyle. In doing so, it will make vital data accessible for researchers across the region and the world. Partnerships with leading global genomics institutes, including The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, as well as the Health Institutes of Turkey will ensuring the transferability of discoveries, and strengthen genomics research on a global scale.

To date, Qatar Genome Programme has sequenced the genomes of over 40,000 Qataris or long-term Qatar residents, generating a wealth of data that has helped to inform diagnoses and treatments that have saved lives.

Through the use of precision medicine, a great number of diseases can be detected early, or avoided altogether. Interventions such as rapid genetic screening for heart patients has led to targeted treatment and a reduction in the number of days patients need to stay in hospital, while mandatory newborn screening through heel prick tests screens for over 80 disorders, giving doctors and parents the ability to detect treatable diseases before clinical presentation.

By seamlessly integrating cutting-edge research with clinical applications, QPHI will equip healthcare providers with the means to provide personalized treatment and elevate the standard of care while cementing Qatar’s position as a frontrunner in precision medicine on the global stage.

For more about Qatar Foundation, please visit qf.org.qa.

For more about QPHI, please visit qphi.org.qa

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