Al Jalila Foundation awards AED 2.5 million in grants for COVID-19 research

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Al Jalila Foundation has awarded AED 2.5 million in seed grants to five UAE-based medical researchers.

The COVID-19 research grants in the areas of genetics, therapies and diagnosis are the first to be awarded under the auspices of the recently inaugurated Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Research Institute to help enhance the UAE’s capacity to address the pandemic and other viral diseases in future.

The awards were presented by His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, during a ceremony at Al Jalila Foundation.

"Exploring new possibilities and breakthrough discoveries in healthcare and medical sectors is key to the UAE’s and Dubai’s efforts to create future-ready economic and social systems that are geared to meet the evolving needs of a post-COVID world," said Sheikh Mansoor. 

The award recipients are highly talented scientists from some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the UAE, including United Arab Emirates University, University of Sharjah, Al Ain University and Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital.

During the event, Al Jalila Foundation engraved the name of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor on a first-of-its-kind donor recognition wall called Bassmat Rashid Bin Saeed.

The donor recognition wall pays tribute to the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s philanthropic legacy and honours generous donors who invest in medical research.

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Al Jalila Foundation, said the Foundation’s efforts to advance medical research support the UAE leadership’s vision for the future of healthcare and the high priority they place on scientific and medical fields.

The applications were assessed through a competitive two-stage review process that included independent international peer reviews by experts from renowned medical institutions from the USA, Belgium, Norway, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, Italy, India, UK, and Australia.

The process was overseen by Al Jalila Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee which worked with an international peer review panel to award the grants to the most deserving scientists.

Out of 91 applications, five were selected to receive grants of up to AED 500,000 each.

Each research project has strong collaborations with scientists and researchers in the UAE and abroad, with the engagement of over 40 co-investigators from renowned research institutions.

Collectively, the principal investigators have co-authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications in prestigious international journals.

The research projects comprise of multidisciplinary teams of clinicians, scientists, and medical students from major academic and health entities in the UAE and abroad, including geneticists, epidemiologists, paediatricians, infectious disease specialists, microbiologists and pulmonologists.

They have outstanding expertise and resources to contribute to Al Jalila Foundation’s mission to support the UAE Government in its fight against COVID-19.

Summary of research projects that received grants:

Diagnosis
Dr. Farah Mustafa, from United Arab Emirates University, aims to characterize microRNAs induced during different stages of COVID-19 as biomarkers for better diagnosis, disease prognosis, and development of novel RNA-based therapies against COVID-19.

Genetics
Professor Rabih Halwani, from University of Sharjah, is determining inborn errors of immunity associated with life-threatening COVID-19 infections in previously healthy young individuals.

Dr. Ahmad Abou Tayoun, from Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, is studying the genetics of COVID-19 in children and young adults in the UAE.

Therapies
Professor Taleb H. Al-Tel, from University of Sharjah, aims to develop novel and nature-inspired therapeutics for the treatment of COVID-19 by inhibiting the proteins and enzymes of the virus that are responsible for host-cells entry and for the replication of the virus inside the human cells.

Dr. Mohammad Ghattas, from Al Ain University, is discovering new drug candidates as potential treatments for COVID-19 via targeting the main protease enzyme (Mpro) of the virus.

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