Dubai to Open UAE's First Robotic Biobank in 2023

Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives
Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives
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Dubai to Open UAE's First Robotic Biobank in 2023

Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives
Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives

Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, announced that it will establish the UAE’s first robotic biobank, in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported Thursday.

The collaboration is set to advance medical research in the areas of genetic disorders, cancer and other chronic diseases and pandemics, it said.

Set to open in 2023 with a capacity to manage seven million specimens, the biobank will be one of the world’s largest in terms of sample capacity. The facility will be located at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Research Institute, part of Al Jalila Foundation, in Dubai Healthcare City.

Chairperson of Al Jalila Foundation Board of Trustees Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said, "Access to genetic and imaging data through biobanks is driving forward pioneering approaches to analysis that would have been impossible just a few years ago.”
“The launch of the UAE’s first robotic biobank reflects Dubai’s commitment to strengthening the capabilities of the healthcare sector and advancing efforts to improve people’s health. The biobank will serve as a major contributor to the advancement of modern medicine and will enable scientific discoveries that will help enhance the health and wellbeing of the community."

Due to the vital role biobanks play in progressing research and advancing medical discovery, the biobank will become an indispensable resource for the new Hamdan Bin Rashid Cancer Charity Hospital and other healthcare facilities in the UAE to conduct research and offer effective treatment.

A biobank is a place to store all types of human biological samples, such as blood, tissue, cells, or body fluids. It also stores data related to the samples as well as other biomolecular resources that can be used in health research. Biobanks have become an important resource in medical research, supporting many types of contemporary research like genomics and personalized medicine, and the development of diagnostics and therapeutics.

Dr. Raja Easa Al Gurg, Chairperson of Al Jalila Foundation Board of Directors and Member of the Board of Trustees, said, "Biobanking is a game-changer for healthcare and will revolutionize medical research, leading to better outcomes for patient treatment. The biobank will provide an opportunity for people in the community and researchers to work together to build a better, healthier future for generations to come. Scientific progress will shape the nation’s economy by influencing our knowledge about human health, disease, therapeutics, personalized medicine, and more."

Al Jalila Foundation is investing AED17 million to build a state-of-the-art facility and will manage seven million human biological materials. An automated, robotic, Artificial Intelligence based system will ensure biological samples are secured in cryogenic storage (below 80 degree Celsius) maintaining proper sample integrity and retrieval.

Dr. Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, said, "Biorepositories are places where you can store patient samples and really serve as a hub of collaboration between scientists for doing either population health studies, or looking at cohorts of patients who have specific diseases, and trying to find better therapeutics and diagnostics to treat patients and save lives."

Patient confidentiality will be a priority in line with UAE’s laws and regulations. The biological and medical data will be used by scientists for research to make new discoveries about common and life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke in order to improve public health.

Deputy Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali said the establishment of the robotic biobank is a reflection of Dubai’s vision for advancing healthcare.

“I am confident the planned biobank will bring significant value to the healthcare system in Dubai and the region. It is a clear example of how the integration of care with discovery, supported by advancement, can set the foundation for better outcomes for our current and future patients,” he added.



North Macedonia's Beekeepers Face Climate Change Challenge

Petroski has for 13 years spent his free time caring for 120 beehives. Robert ATANASOVSKI / AFP
Petroski has for 13 years spent his free time caring for 120 beehives. Robert ATANASOVSKI / AFP
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North Macedonia's Beekeepers Face Climate Change Challenge

Petroski has for 13 years spent his free time caring for 120 beehives. Robert ATANASOVSKI / AFP
Petroski has for 13 years spent his free time caring for 120 beehives. Robert ATANASOVSKI / AFP

Every day, Magda Miloseska dons a white, protective suit and enters the domain of the honeybees in the backyard of her small weekend house in North Macedonia.
She has been producing honey in this picturesque corner of the country for more than 20 years. But climate change and disease have made what used to be a simple pleasure much harder work, she says.
Stence is a hillside village in the west of the country, surrounded by mountains and at a level of 650 meters (2,130 feet). Temperatures in June already exceed 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), three-degrees higher than usual, according to the state meteorological office.
"In the past, beekeeping was much easier," said 63-year-old Miloseska. "Beekeeping was a treat.
"Now, we simply have to fight both the climate conditions and the diseases that have entered the beekeeping."
Just a hobby for some, but a source of income for others, beekeeping has surged in recent years in all regions of the country, said AFP.
There were 6,900 beekeepers with 306,000 beehives registered across the country in 2023, according to the Food and Veterinary Agency.
But according to a European Commission study issued in July 2023, 10 percent of bees and butterflies are threatened with extinction in Europe -- largely due to human activities.
Honey production down
Miloseska may not have the data at her fingertips, but her everyday experience has made it clear to her something is wrong.
"Older beekeepers say that in the past they could get 30-50 kilograms (44-66 pounds) of honey from one beehive," she said.
"In this period, with these climate conditions, that is substantially decreased."
Today, in ideal conditions, the most you could hope for would be around 30 kilograms over one season, she added -- with average production between 10 and 20 kilos.
That relative scarcity has pushed prices up to between 15 and 20 euros ($16-22) compared to 10 euros just two or three years ago.
Vladimir Petroski, who for the past 13 years has spent his free time caring for 120 beehives, has noted the same problem.
Whereas in the past they could expect 30-40 kilograms, he said, these days they had to be satisfied with 15 kilos per season.
And he agreed that climate change had fueled the rise of the parasites and viruses that threaten wild and honey bees.
"Beekeepers need to educate themselves and adapt according to the conditions and the micro-climate where they work."
Educate and adapt
In fact, the beekeepers are already trying to find solutions themselves.
Their hive mind is made up of the regional beekeepers' associations, which promote good practice and organize honey festivals.
They agree the main challenges are the warm winters, swift changes of the temperature in spring -- and the long, dry periods that come with summer now stretching into September and October.
Environmental groups have called for government ministries and agencies to coordinate to tackle the problems that climate change pose for bees.
So far however, they say their warnings have gone largely unheeded.
The agriculture ministry is just as concerned about intensive agriculture, pesticides, loss of diversity and pollution.
While acknowledging the threat climate change poses, it has simply recommended closer monitoring of the bees' behavior.
More data is certainly needed, says Frosina Pandurska Dramikjanin of the Macedonian Ecological Society, part of a project trying to understand the effect of climate change on bees.
But it also needs to be share between the relevant state institutions, she argued.
Without that, she told AFP, "it is harder to issue measures and recommendations".
A recent report from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) underlined the stakes, highlighting the key role bees play in food production and biodiversity.
Out of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of all food consumed worldwide, 71 are pollinated by bees, it reported.