Huge 'biobank' for research into major diseases to be set up by Qatar and Imperial College London

October 28, 2010, Imperial College London

A "biobank" of samples and clinical measurements from tens of thousands of people is to be established in Qatar to help scientists understand the causes of major diseases and develop new treatments, it is announced today.

The Qatar Biobank is being established by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development (QF) and Qatar's Supreme Council of Health, with the assistance of experts from Imperial College London. The project was announced at the Royal Society today in the presence of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, during the Qatari state visit to the UK.

The biobank will collect a wealth of medical data from up to 100,000 volunteers and store samples of their blood and urine in a high-tech storage facility over many years. This will allow scientists to look at diseases already present in the population as well as following up the participants to see who develops disease in the future. Researchers will compare data, including and data on environmental exposures and lifestyles, from participants who develop illnesses with data from those who remain healthy. In this way, they aim to identify early markers that can indicate when someone is likely to develop a particular disease, so that people will be able to receive early treatment or take measures to prevent a disease developing.

The Qatar Biobank will be the first very large population-based study involving the collection of biological samples in an Arabic country. It will provide scientists with an invaluable resource for improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of , such as diabetes and heart disease, which are placing increasing demands on Qatar's free public health service.

The initiative builds on other large national and international biobanking projects such as the UK Biobank, set up in 2006, which is the most advanced project of its type in the world.

Public health experts from Imperial College London are playing a crucial role in the design and implementation of the project.

Professor Elio Riboli, Director of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: "At the very beginning of the study, healthy participants will be examined using top-level technology, such as MRI scans, so that later we can pick out aspects of the imaging data that may look today normal but might actually be predictive of diseases. The results will be invaluable not only for the Qatar population but for medical science in general.

"Qatar is an extremely interesting population from a medical point of view. It's a population in rapid transition towards more Western lifestyles. Qatar is home to residents from different regions of the world, which means we can look at disease risk factors in multiethnic populations in detail and on a very large scale."

Professor Paul Elliott, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Imperial College London, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to set up a world-leading project, following up the health of a population over many years, and really try and understand the causes of disease, both genetic and environmental.

"We will be using state-of-the-art technology to collect and analyse samples from an extremely large set of participants. We also plan to carry out imaging of the whole body with MRI – this has never been done before on such a huge scale."

Professors Riboli and Elliott bring to the project a wealth of expertise in conducting large population studies. Professor Riboli is the co-ordinator of the European Prospective Investigation of Chronic Diseases (EPIC), which has collected data from over 500,000 people over 15 years. Professor Elliott is part of the steering committee of UK Biobank.

Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, Chair of the Qatar Biobank Steering Committee and Managing Director of Hamad Medical Corporation, said: "By developing transparent data access and ethical standards, the Biobank will provide a framework for industry and academia to share expertise and conduct collaborative research. The Biobank will work very closely with government at identifying health targets or areas where further investments are required. This will enable Qatar not only to practice evidence based medicine but also evidence based public health."

QF President Dr. Fathy Saoud said "The launch of Qatar Biobank opens up a unique opportunity for Qatar-based scientists to become part of and contributors to international networks of researchers working on biobanks worldwide. Association with other, similar resources and the sharing of scientific data and opinions will significantly enhance Qatar Biobank's value as a research resource nationally and internationally."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.