Qatar has succeeded in completing the largest national genome project in the Arab region, and is working on developing it to become Arab as it has expanded its national program to a significant number of the Arab population residing in Qatar, as part of an ambitious project implemented by the “Qatar Genome Program”.
Genomics is one of the most important scientific disciplines today, as it opens the doors to the application of precision medicine, where based on its results, treatments can be accurately described for patients, or even some genetic or immune diseases can be avoided.
The Qatari-Arab project
Dr. Saeed Ismail, director of the Qatar Genome Program, said in a statement to the Qatar Foundation website, “So far, we have sequenced 20,000 Qatari genomes, and we are about to sequencing 3 thousand residents of Arab countries.”
And “we hope within the next few months that the study will also include 10% of Qataris, while the ultimate goal is to complete the sequencing of the vast majority of the population.”
“Scientifically, 10% is good enough to capture most medically relevant genetic variants, and this will allow us to prepare the first comprehensive Qatari reference genome. We now know what are the main components of the Qatari reference genome,” the doctor added.
Dr. Ismail concluded, “The next step is to convert research efforts into clinical implementation, and we hope to start that with Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra Medicine in the near future.”
Local Saudi and Egyptian success
Besides Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that attach great importance to preparing human genome programs, but the projects of these two countries have not exceeded their borders as they are still limited to local citizens.
Saudi Arabia is implementing an ambitious project for the Saudi human genome, launched by the “King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology” in Riyadh in 2014, which is a long-term program that aims to analyze samples that could reach 100,000 by 2030, according to the program’s website. The site adds that the program has been able to date to analyze samples of more than two thousand families.
In addition, Egypt recently succeeded in preparing the first Egyptian reference to the human genome in cooperation with a German research team that analyzed DNA samples for a group of 110 Egyptians, a feat that was the subject of a scientific study published in the journal Nature Communications in The 18th of last month.
Although the number of individuals who underwent the analysis is not significant, the supervisors of the study emphasized in their research that the step is very positive because it will open the door towards expanding the genome, and the initiative is the first in North Africa.
Algeria – a dream that still awaits
Algeria is also among the Arab countries that showed great interest in preparing the genome project for Algerians, and the idea was circulated in the departments of the Ministry of Scientific Research in early 2014, when the Biotechnology Research Center in Constantine was assigned the task of preparing the project.
The director of the center, Dr. Halima Ben Bouza, said – in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net over the phone – that “the project was prepared in steady steps, as all necessary means were mobilized to make it successful, and contact was made with Algerian researchers residing outside the country and American researchers who worked a lot on this topic, but things suddenly stopped without any presentation.” Clarifications on that. “
“We were supposed to analyze the samples of 5,000 people with the help of Algerian researchers at home and abroad … We were dreaming and looking forward to entering the world of precision medicine, but unfortunately everything stopped suddenly, and we do not know today the fate of this dream project,” she added.