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Role of biotechnology and life sciences in UAE’s healthcare ambitions

AI, advanced data management and security privacy have played a fundamental role in reimagining the future of healthcare.

Globally, the UAE ranked twentieth in the 2021 World Index of Healthcare Innovation. This is a strong showing for the country and not at all unexpected when we consider the proactive steps taken in recent years.

The ranking follows the nation’s continued success in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into the industry as a means of fueling progress and innovation. Meanwhile, the UAE leadership has encouraged the rapid transformation of the healthcare industry by committing to a programme of modernisation and infrastructure development.

In fact, when looking at the biotechnology sector across MENA, the UAE has attracted more FDI into the sector than any other country in the region. This only underscores how eager the UAE is to help reimagine global healthcare through biotechnology and life sciences.

Initiatives driving this agenda

Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced data management and security privacy have played a fundamental role in reimagining the future of healthcare. These three elements, when implemented within biotechnology and life sciences, are critical to improving patient care across healthcare systems.

This is because as they support healthcare practitioners in better understanding day-to-day patient insights, they in turn provide patients with the right treatments and consequently, more effective healthcare. The UAE has always considered AI, primarily, an essential part of its healthcare transformation.

For example, In 2021, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and the Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop AI algorithms that can predict a heart attack months before its occurrence. Such a breakthrough is bound to save lives, as global statistics note that every few seconds, one person dies of a heart attack.

This partnership is just one of the many initiatives from the UAE leadership that tells us how AI has always been the nation’s priority. Combining the research expertise of its educational institutions with the nation’s goal to transform healthcare, the UAE government is leveraging the power of AI and data to facilitate medical research, early diagnosis, treatments and more.

From my vantage point, the UAE’s initiatives within AI, advanced data management, and security privacy have the power to reimagine global healthcare within biotechnology. This is something we at Hayat Biotech, a joint collaboration between China’s Sinopharm CNBG and UAE-born G42, supported by utilising AI and sound data management in clinical trials for the world’s first approved inactivated COVID-19 vaccine.

Leveraging advanced analytics for more accurate treatments. Another key initiative that’s helping to reimagine the future of healthcare through biotechnology is advanced analytics. This paperless ecosystem method, an evolved methodology from the digitisation of health records, applies advanced analytics to biotechnology data on patients with unidentifiable or rare diseases. Such advanced analytics makes way for more accurate diagnosis, with which health practitioners can decide on the most effective form of treatment.

Through clinical genome sequencing research — a methodology applied in biotechnological healthcare — deeper health data can be retrieved from first-tier patients, whose physicians face a high degree of diagnostic uncertainty during treatment. This includes patient names, consultation, diagnosis, treatment data, alpha- numerical patient identifiers, common procedural technology codes, medical scan images and lab results. Such a seemingly impossible initiative developed with biotechnology, demonstrates just what is possible from innovation and bold ambitions, both of which are found in abundance across the UAE healthcare system.

Prioritising preventative medicine through research and development

Alongside AI and analytics, the UAE’s healthcare system continues to prioritise preventative medicine as a foundation of healthcare advancement. This includes the introduction of biotechnology and biological products and innovations such as vaccines to fight HPV, cervical cancer, and communicable diseases (hepatitis and meningitis are examples).

However, there is undiscovered potential to be realised through the UAE’s research and development capabilities, which continue to take significant steps forward. The UAE’s fast-developing healthcare system, coupled with FDI, is fertile ground for more research and development centres that can boost clinical research facilities and upgrade medical and healthcare institutes. In fact, the nation is well placed to undertake clinical trials with its advanced healthcare infrastructure and a uniquely diverse population.

Blending collaboration and digitisation with speed and urgency, the UAE is well placed to achieve its healthcare ambitions, and biotechnology has a significant role to play. Ample opportunities exist for biotechnology and life sciences companies in the UAE to join hands in creating a transformed, digitally backed healthcare system that can serve as a blueprint for other nations with a commitment to driving progress.

Naser Al Yammahi is the deputy CEO of Hayat Biotech, UAE.