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Bio-Regional Biomedical Sciences Cooperation

A conference on biomedical sciences cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Union (EU) will take place on 30 - 31 October 2012 in Dubai. The conference will be opened by Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, and hosted by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of the UAE.

30 October 2012 - 31 October 2012
United Arab Emirates

Cooperation in scientific matters occurs at many levels and involves government agencies, commercial enterprises, academic institutions, professional societies, as well as individual scientists and students. In order to further strengthen this process, the conference in Dubai aims to encourage further dialogue on Biomedical Science Cooperation between the EU and the Gulf region. Its objective is to develop the potential for exploitation and cooperation for the advancement of biomedical research and innovation from the point of view of standards, regulation, legislation, policies, funding and programmes operation.

The conference follows a high-level meeting in Dubai in February 2012 which examined the potential for EU – Gulf cooperation in establishing biobanking resources and capabilities for the region. The conference on October 30 - 31 will bring together biomedical science stakeholders (see above) to explore how a Gulf biobanking resource can be developed (thereby establishing a key resource for top biomedical research that will also lay the foundation for innovation and improved health care). In February, it was proposed that this should be modeled on the EU’s Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI). BBMRI collects and shares biological samples in association with standardised medical information on national populations. It is a long-term project with a focus on complex diseases, such as diabetes and cancer that are caused by multiple genetic and environmental factors, and can be understood only by studying large numbers of people.

For example, changes in eating habits and lifestyle in the Arabian Peninsula have led to an increase in the prevalence of obesity and metabolic disorders commonly observed in Western countries. Research cooperation in targeting these problems has benefits for the EU (who look to build their science capacity to international standards), but obvious ones for Gulf states too. Taking the example of UAE, whose principal medical problem is diabetes, membership would aid the country in tackling the disease (one of the government’s stated goals).

Some of the strongest sentiments of the February meeting focused on the intrinsic link between science and society. Making a commitment to the health of a region entails a dedication to high quality science. In this spirit, Prof Kurt Zatloukal, coordinator of BBMRI, remarked on the conference’s “win-win potential”. Answering the charge as to whether this was the perspective of the Gulf region, Prof Eyad Abed, Dean of the Faculty of IT at UAEU, responded: “There is interest, real interest. We are highly motivated. It’s the right time, the right place, and we’re the right people to do it”.