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Abu Dhabi Teams Up With BGI, Oxford Nanopore for Population Sequencing Project

NEW YORK – The Department of Health-Abu Dhabi said today that the emirate is launching a national project called the Genome Program that plans to sequence 100,000 samples in its first phase.

"Embracing innovation and providing a comprehensive healthcare program in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi remains at the forefront of our priorities," said Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohamed Al Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health-Abu Dhabi, in a statement. "Two of the world's most exciting technologies — DNA sequencing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) — will come together in this project. The Genome Program will enhance our knowledge of citizens' genomes and establish a strong foundation of health and well-being."

The project will be free of charge for United Arab Emirates citizens and will proceed in two stages: a research stage to study the genetic variation of the population and a strategy stage to improve health outcomes based on the research results.

The program will be led by the Department of Health-Abu Dhabi and executed by Group 42, a technology firm based in the emirate, in collaboration with BGI and Oxford Nanopore Technologies. In addition, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) will use the results to deliver healthcare services.

One goal of the project is to produce a reference genome that is specific to the population of the UAE. Also, the aim is to provide individuals with their own high-quality genome and to incorporate their genomic data into healthcare management.

The data will be encrypted, protected by national data protection laws, and stored in a UAE government cloud, which is located in Abu Dhabi and regulated by the Department of Health. Group 42's Artemis supercomputer will be used to analyze the data.

The project plans to make details of how to participate available in early 2020 through the Department of Health-Abu Dhabi and SEHA.