We would like to start with the latest updates of Qatar Biobank?
Qatar Biobank is part of QF-RDI, and we aim to put Qatar at the forefront of innovation and scientific research fields, in order to overcome national and global challenges. Therefore, our most prominent developments and most important achievements at the present time are able to define Qatar Biobank as a national repository for collecting samples of people infected with the Coronavirus “Covid-19”, as we are currently focusing our efforts on research, related to this pandemic, through studying the samples that we collected from more than 125,000 patients.
The studies address the impact of the “Covid-19” virus on our lives, and the changes that may occur for the virus or the various mutations. So we were keen to collect samples from the early infections in the country to the most recent infections and store them at Qatar Biobank to be able to study the virus moving forward.
We are currently working on studying the impact of the Coronavirus on those who were infected with the virus and we started collecting samples from 2,000 patients during the first wave then from 500 patients during the second wave from all hospitals. Also, we are still following their health status every month to learn about the impact of the virus on them and study the post-Coronavirus effects, in addition to closely identifying the effect of the virus on one’s immunity, and how long is the immunity obtained by those recovered as a result of the infection through antibodies. Furthermore, we provide those participants with a report on every monthly follow-up.
Our team begins by collecting samples from patients while they are in the hospital, then patients visit Qatar Biobank once a month for two months. In the third month, they undergo a comprehensive examination and in the sixth month, they get a full-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) done after the patient’s approval. These examinations help us to learn about the effect on the liver, kidneys, heart and brain, as a service that we provide to the participants in this study. The results we conclude from studying these samples will be available for researchers wishing to conduct further research.
Is there any cooperation between Qatar Biobank and other institutions in the Covid-19 Biorepository project?
The project is a collaboration between Qatar Biobank, part of QF-RDI, the Ministry of Public Health and Hamad Medical Corporation. Qatar Foundation and Hamad Medical Corporation provide funding for this important research project.
Are there other ongoing studies related to the Covid-19 pandemic?
We are currently working on a study to identify the effect of the virus on the blood sugar level and to determine whether it increased.
We are also working on another study related to the effect of vaccination on those who received it, and it is in cooperation with the health centers of the Primary Health Care Corporation, to collect 1,000 samples of those who received the vaccination and follow them for a year, to know the effect of vaccination on them, how long it lasts and the level of antibiotics created from the vaccine.
We are also working on several other researches and we have received requests for many research papers based on these samples from researchers and students interested in this field.
How do you evaluate the cooperation of the Qatari community with your efforts, especially since the samples and data collections are done with the consent of the participants?
We find great cooperation from the Qatari community, Qataris and residents. We have long-term studies that we have been working on since 2012 and we have followed up with more than 27,000 participants, including about 20,000 Qataris, which demonstrates full awareness and desire for cooperation to community service and healthier future generations. This research takes time, but it is very important to the health of the community.
Tell us about the support of institutions in Qatar for your research efforts?
We find great support from institutions in Qatar for the various studies that we are working on, whether from Qatar Foundation, that Qatar Biobank is part of, or the Ministry of Public Health, Hamad Medical Corporation and the Primary Health Care Corporation. The whole country is very keen to support research efforts. Qatar Biobank has already made significant tangible contributions to the local and international biomedical community by enabling biomedical research on health problems and diseases prevalent in Qatar and the region through the samples and data collected to provide better opportunities for governments and policy makers to develop health care programs focusing on the well-being and prevention of diseases for the beneficiaries of the health system. This new approach to healthcare delivery will help reduce costs and expenses for individuals and healthcare systems, thus contributing to building healthier and better living communities.
What are the main results of the 2nd International Biobanking Conference 2021, that was organized earlier by Qatar Biobank?
This conference is very important. It is organized with 3 of the largest international organizations in Europe, America and Africa. More than 50 scientists participated in the conference activities this year, in addition to 5000 participants from researchers and specialists, and the conference was one of the most successful conferences organized in the biobanking sector.
The conference addressed the impact of the "Covid-19" pandemic on different societies and how people's lives have changed and their interest in ways to prevent diseases and viruses has increased. The conference also addressed the biobanks’ efforts in collecting samples during the pandemic, and the participation of various experiences in this field were recognized during the conference activities which put Qatar Biobank at the same level as international biobanks.
We know that Qatar Biobank supports research efforts. How many research requests has Qatar Biobank received so far?
Qatar Biobank has received nearly 200 requests that are in cooperation with international institutions, but it’s mandatory that the
researcher/applicant lives in Qatar so that there is a benefit to develop the health sector in Qatar.
We already have 50 completed research projects and their results have been revealed already. We also have more than 40 published research papers and they are available on Qatar Biobank website. Moreover, we currently have, approximately, 135 ongoing research projects from different institutions in Qatar, including Qatar University, Hamad Medical Corporation, Sidra Medicine, Weill Cornell and Hamad Bin Khalifa University.
What are the most prominent researches among the submitted applications?
These researches include, but not limited to, research on the use of artificial intelligence in the early diagnosis of diseases by researchers from Hamad Bin Khalifa University. The research aims to define the chances of a person suffering from blood pressure or heart diseases, and etc. This research determines, in a mathematical way, the incidence of diseases in each group, which helps in the prevention of many different diseases.
Also, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College working on research using a confocal microscope to take an image of the cornea and determine the effect of this on the nerves, which is one of the important projects as well.
As for Qatar University, we cooperate with its researchers on many projects, especially with master’s and doctoral students, whose studies aim to protect patients at risk of developing diabetes, especially in the early stage of disease.
We also have important projects in cooperation with Hamad Medical Corporation, and other institutions that work on important research for the
health of the community and these researches can reduce the high cost incurred by Qatar in treating patients by preventing them from infection.
What are your long-term plans at Qatar Biobank?
We have plans to become a global repository, not only a national repository, for collecting samples and facilitating medical research. We have already started to register globally, and we receive requests from researchers interested in the samples and data we have and researchers who want to participate in research to compare our research and samples with other existing studies In the world.
Becoming a global repository will not be limited to samples only, but also data, as a large amount of data is collected to be at the service of researchers, which will benefit Qatar and the whole world.