CHLS Participates at Sidra Medicine's Precision Medicine

HBKU’s College of Health and Life Sciences Participates at Sidra Medicine's Precision Medicine and Functional Genomics Symposium

07 Dec 2020

Conference focused on implementing precision medicine solutions with a special session on COVID-19

HBKU’s College of Health and Life Sciences Participates at Sidra Medicine's Precision Medicine and Functional Genomics Symposium

The College of Health and Life Sciences (CHLS) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has participated at Sidra Medicine’s Fifth Precision Medicine and Functional Genomics Symposium (PMFG 2020) held virtually from December 5-7.

The 2020 edition explored the very latest developments and innovations in genomics research and how they translate into precision medicine solutions. Scientists, academics, healthcare professionals, community members and policymakers from several countries shared lessons and insights from research, education and clinic practice. HBKU was represented by several CHLS faculty members, who made vital contributions that highlighted the advanced research being conducted at HBKU.

Day one focused on expanding the potential of precision medicine, and the latest advances from landmark global projects including the Qatar Genome Program, with a keynote address by Professor Sir Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist, Genomics England, UK, on the 100,000 Genomes Project.

Speaking at Session 1, Dr. Omar Albagha, Professor and Coordinator of the Genomics and Precision Medicine program at CHLS, addressed “The Performance of European-derived Polygenic Scores for Health-Related Traits in the Qatari Population”. During the same session, Dr. Georges Nemer, Professor and Head of the Genomics and Translational Biomedicine Division presented a talk on “Education in Precision Medicine: Ethics in Sharing Knowledge Across Borders”.

A special session dedicated to COVID-19 highlighted precision medicine solutions and scientific progress made to date, including biomarker and vaccine trials. The session was hosted by Dr. Luis Saraiva, the director of Sidra Medicine’s Metabolism and Diabetes Program, who also teaches at CHLS. Dr. Saraiva said: “Our conference this year, sought to bring a meaningful exchange of existing solutions, current research and clinical efforts being conducted not only in Qatar but globally in order to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.  All of this is underpinned by Precision Medicine and we are very impressed with the contributions from our speakers. Sidra Medicine has recently put forward its own research success stories regarding testing for COVID-19 and we were pleased to have our partners from HBKU also present their own research on the topic.”

Dr. Hadi M. Yassine, Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases at Qatar University Biomedical Research Center, and adjunct faculty at CHLS, presented “A One Health Approach to Address COVID-19 in Qatar”. 

The theme of day two was realizing the promise of precision medicine in clinical care. Sessions explored strategies for tackling the heterogeneity of diseases and lessons from industry and biotechnology companies at the frontline of precision medicine, especially examples of successful translational approaches.

The future of functional genomics and precision medicine was the focus on the third day, where Dr. Borbala Mifsud, Assistant Professor in Genomics and Precision Medicine, CHLS, spoke on “PML-RARA drives context-specific activities in Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia” at Session 5. Other thematic discussions touched on large scale multi-omics population stratification to enable personalized medicine, examining the challenges and opportunities for big data in patient care and data integration approaches aimed at clinical applications. 

Speaking after the symposium, Professor Georges Nemer, the Genomics and Translational Biomedicine Division Head at HBKU, said: “Sidra Medicine’s Functional Genomics conference was a vital opportunity to explore the alignment of genomics with precision medicine, how it can be applied to patient care in a global context, and also how it can be commercialized in the future. The conference has long been a crucial platform to evaluate advancements in the field of genomics, and especially this year, to assess how omics has contributed to our understanding of COVID-19.”

The College of Health and Life Sciences’ Master of Science and PhD degree paths in Genomics and Precision Medicine offer students advanced knowledge and training to integrate “omics” with clinical data. For more information, please visit