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Dr. Turki bin Saud: One billion and 400 million riyals provided by science & technology to health and biotechnology research

​His Highness Prince Dr. Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud, President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) highlighted that KACST has supported, within the strategic technologies program for the first National Science, Technology and Innovation Plan "Maarefa1", more than 700 research projects in health and biotechnology research areas, with a budget estimated at one billion and 400 million riyals, representing 40% of the total financial support for projects, in an effort to build an integrated and supportive environment for the transfer, localization and development of technologies related to bio-technology of stem cells technology.      

During inaugurating activities of the 2nd Saudi International Biotechnology Conference 2016 (SIBC16) organized by KACST at its headquarters under kind patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prince Turki stressed that KACST is working in close cooperation with the relevant authorities and stakeholders on the transfer and localization of the latest technologies,  building national capacity to propel the wheel of   scientific research and technological development in the Kingdom, in strenuous efforts to achieve objectives enshrined  in the national policy for science and Technology and its executive plans in many scientific fields, comprehending those related to biotechnology in general and technology of stem cells in particular as they are considered a groundbreaking medical achievement that offers promising opportunities for the treatment of many incurable diseases and the creation of new mechanisms for the development and manufacturing of new medicines and drugs.

Prince Turki underlined that KACST is implementing, in partnership with a number of universities, research centers and hospitals in the Kingdom, the Saudi Human Genome Program, which aims to analyze genetic data to one hundred thousand individual, with the aim to identify the genes that cause socially-observed genetic diseases, thus contributing to limit their outspread and finding the effective ways to treat and eliminate such diseases.

KACST President outlined that KACST has also signed a memorandum of understanding with  Samsung Electronics Co. to develop an integrated and mobile computer system for the Saudi genome program that enables researchers and doctors involved in the program to follow up the progress and results of analysis through a database comprising the medical information and genetic sequencing, which contributes to the activation of personalized medicine services , which would be a quantum leap in medical services in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,

For his part, Dr. Abdullah Othman Ala’awad, Manager of The National Center for Stem-cell technology at KACST, Chairman of the SIBC16 Scientific Committee, stressed that this Conference comes in the wake of the remarkable success achieved by the 1st Saudi International Biotechnology Conference which spotted the light on the nano-biotechnologies and their applications in both fields of diagnosis and therapy and considered stem cell technologies promising areas in the treatment of many incurable diseases.

Dr. Ala’awad underlined that hopes on stem cell technologies pushed to encouraging investment in technologies of interest to governments and corporations, which actually helped to accelerate the progress of research and technology development in this area; meanwhile pointing out that studies prepared by think-tanks and consulting firms indicate a global surge in investments in stem cell technologies ranging from 20% to 30% per annum, whereas Transparency Market Research anticipated high volume of investment in stem cell technologies up to 120 billion Dollar by 2019, while a report issued by the R & R Foundation indicates that the size of the  global market in tissue engineering sector only will exceed 50 billion Dollar in the same year.

Dr. Stuart Williams, chief of the Bioficial Heart Division of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute at University of Louisville, took the stand next, as keynote speaker, focusing on cardiovascular regenerative medicine.

Then activities of the conference commenced by the first session chaired by Dr. Ahmed Ala’askar, Consultant and Associated Professor, King Saud bin AbdulAziz for Health Sciences that came titled "Stem cells and cell therapy," where Dr. Khalid Shah, Associated Professor,  Harvard Medical School, shed the light on stem cell therapeutics for cancer from bench to bedside; then  Professor Paul Laikind, President and Chief Executive Officer,  ViaCyte, Inc., USA, gave his lecture on chasing a cure for type 1 diabetes and the development of a stem cell derived islet replacement therapy.

Dr. Mohamed Abumaree, Associated Professor, King Saud bin AbdulAziz for Health Sciences, lectured on human placental mesenchymal  stem cell modulate the immunopathogensis pfocess in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

Dr. Abdullah Al Dahmash, General Director of Prince Naif bin AbdulAziz Health Research Center, chaired the second session, held under the title “Tissue engineering” and comprehended three lectures; the first of which was presented by Dr. Utkan Demirci, Associated Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Radiology, Canary Center for Early Cancer Detection, titled ‘Levitation technologies for 3-dimensional cellular assembly and additive bio-manufacturing’.

Lady Professor Charlotte Hauser, professor of Biosciences, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), gave the second lecture on personalized medicine: peptide hydro-gels for re-programming, expansion and directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells. The session was concluded by a lecture on cell therapy and tissue engineering for liver regeneration given by Dr. Dipok Dhar, Consultant, Senior Clinical Scientist, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre.

It is worth mentioning that SIBC16 activities are carried on tomorrow by holding two scientific sessions that would comprehend more than 7 working papers in the field of biotechnology presented by and offered a number of national  and international experts