The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), the regulator of the healthcare sector in the emirate, has launched the Clinical Genomic Medicine and Genetic Counselling Course for 100 Emirati physicians from different healthcare facilities across the UAE. The course is offered by DoH, in partnership with the International Center for Genetic Disease (iCGD), Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Khalifa University of Science and Technology, which hosted the inaugural ceremony. The programme is considered to be iCGD’s largest and most comprehensive national genomics educational programmes, reflecting DoH’s commitment to upskilling physicians in genomic medicine and equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills.

The inaugural ceremony was attended by His Excellency Mansoor Ibrahim Al Mansoori, Chairman of Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), Professor Sir John O'Reilly, President of Khalifa University, His Excellency Homaid Al Shimmari, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Khalifa University and representatives of local and global partners.

The launch of the genomics course comes as a continuation of the partnership between DoH and iCGD, following the signing of a Declaration of Collaboration during the department’s participation in the BIO International Convention 2023.

The six-month course is the region’s first programme offered by experts from Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospitals and seeks to equip medical doctors with the necessary knowledge and skills to handle genetic and genomic issues in the clinical setting. By integrating fundamental science and medical education in the fields of genomics and precision medicine, this course will emphasise the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, metabolic disorders, system-based disorders, and newborn and population screening. It will also enable participants to become proficient in diagnostics, clinical decision-making and the analysis and interpretation of genomic data. Through this, the course will contribute to building the professional and genomic medicine capacity essential for the successful implementation of the Emirati Genome Programme. Consequently, it will play a pivotal role in the development and execution of the most appropriate public health policies.

Her Excellency Dr. Noura Al Ghaithi, Undersecretary at the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, said: “Abu Dhabi has positioned itself as the region’s leading destination for healthcare and innovation in life sciences. Our constant pursuit of partnerships with renowned global partners allows us to enhance healthcare outcomes and elevate the quality of life in the emirate and beyond. Following the directives of our wise leadership, the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi is committed to empowering national competencies, by ensuring that they have access to leading experts and sharing the necessary knowledge and skills in innovative fields, such as genomics, leveraging the emirate’s advanced capabilities and its infrastructure.”

“This comes as a continuation of our collaboration with iCGD and Harvard Medical School that started earlier this year, providing the world with genomic solutions that address international health challenges and needs. This comes in line with the DoH’s efforts to unlock opportunities for local talents and ensure the sustainability of our healthcare sector. These continuous strides further cement Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading destination for healthcare.”

Dr. Robert S.D. Higgins, President of Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital - Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Executive Vice President at Mass General Brigham, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi to launch one of the largest genomic medicine training programmes, aiming to boost the capacity in genomics and genetics in the UAE. We anticipate that the positive impacts of this initiative will extend beyond the UAE to other countries in the region."

Professor Sir John O’Reilly, President, Khalifa University, said: “We are delighted to join with our partners to launch the Clinical Genomics and Genetic Counselling course in the realm of healthcare at Khalifa University. Developments in this area represent a tremendous leap towards empowering individuals with a profound understanding of their own genetic tapestry. As a leading institution involved in nurturing curious minds across a broad spectrum of research and innovation, we are pleased to offer our expertise to healthcare professionals, to help guide them as they embark on a transformative journey, one wherein the intricacies of our DNA unravel and pave the way for personalised care, informed decision-making, and a future promising the boundless potential of genetic medicine.”

This programme is part of the comprehensive partnership with the Department of Health- Abu Dhabi to advance Life Sciences that highlights the Emirati leadership's dedication to striving for excellence in Emirati physicians to ensure the prosperity and wellbeing of the UAE population.

In collaboration with Khalifa University as the local operator, the course is scheduled to start October 2023 consisting of weekly classes totalling between 45- 55 lectures.

The Emirati Genome Programme (EGP) is a national project, indispensable for the realisation of the National Genome Strategy. It ranks among the most extensive population genomic initiatives to date, harnessing state-of-the-art whole sequencing and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to generate high-quality data essential to developing advanced healthcare solutions. The EGP's progress has been remarkable, with over 400,000 genetic samples collected to date, marking substantial progress towards the national target of 1 million. Emiratis of all ages are encouraged to join this transformative initiative by providing a blood sample (or an inner cheek swab for children) at one of the 143 designated sample collection centres available throughout the UAE.