Posted on March 28, 2020

Qatar University’s Biomedical Research Center (BRC)-(QU) in collaboration with external entities initiated several research activities focused on Coronavirus (COVID-19 and MERS-CoV) lead by Dr. Asmaa Al Thani, Director at Biomedical Research Center QU and Dr. Hadi Yassine, Research Projects Manager at Biomedical Research Center QU.

BRC initiated many researches to fight the emerging (COVID-19). These six researches included, ‘A Detailed analysis of exported COVID-19 cases (from China to the rest of the world) which is being done in collaboration with College of Medicine QU and Ministry of public Health (MoPH); ‘Using digital simulation technology to test the ability of some inhibitors to stop COVID-19 binding to its cellular receptors’ conducted by BRC; ‘Study of the genetics evolution of seasonal and zoonotic coronavirus that infects humans’, a research being made in collaboration between The Biomedical Research Center QU and Hamad bin Khalifa University – Qatar Foundation; ‘Study the evolution of the Coronavirus (MERS) that causes respiratory syndrome in humans and camels in the Middle East’ held by The Biomedical Research Center QU, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and (MoPH); ‘A Comparative study on the presence and amount of anti- coronavirus antibodies against seasonal and zoonotic coronaviruses in humans in Qatar’ Published in February 2, 2019 by The Biomedical Research Center QU and MoPH; and ‘Study on the complete structure of the coronavirus spike protein (viral thorn) its pre-bonding form with cellular receptors, Published on March 2, 2016 by the National Institute of Health (USA) and Biomedical Research Center QU.

In order to reach the various private and public health sectors in Qatar and to build necessary capacities, the Center, and in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) and international partners, had organized international workshops and including “The Fourth International Conference on Human, Animal and Environment Interaction with Emerging Diseases 2017”.The conference was the first of its kind in the region and it has received a wide echoes at the local and international levels, where the number of attendees exceeded 300, including 115 from foreign and Arab countries.

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It is worth mentioning that the Center for Biomedical Research at QU collaborate with various government institutions in the country not only in research, but also in service and outreaching activities. In terms of research, the Center has participated in several research projects with a number of government health (MOPH, MME, HMC, Qatar foundation and other) on  antibiotic profiling of  antibiotics resistant microbes in humans and animals (One health approach) and others on several viral infections circulating in Qatar.

The Center seeks to engage the various sectors in the country in its research projects. In this respect, the Center has cooperated with the industrial sector in Qatar through a research project with ExxonMobil on the DNA sequence of the Dugong (sea cow). The Center is also cooperating with some community institutions, such as Al Gannas Society in Katara in the project titled “Decoding the Genetic Code of Qatari Falcons”.

One of that the most important achievements of the Center is the establishment of a laboratory that matches the third level of laboratory bio-safety by CERTEK International, - United States of America. The Laboratories that specialize in infectious microbes are classified into four levels of bio-safety (BSL1, 2, 3, 4), based on the risk level of the studied microbes. For example BSL-3 laboratories provide safety factors when dealing with or treating infectious, self or exotic factors that are transmitted by inhalation and can cause serious illness.

Examples of these germs are the highly pathogenic influenza viruses (H5N1), coronaviruses (MERS / SARS/ COVID-19), and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). Currently, there is only one BSL3 laboratory in Qatar at Hamad Medical Corporation, which has been mandated to diagnose tuberculosis and its respective research.

QU’s Biomedical Research Center (BRC) was established in September 2014, with the aim of providing practical and logistical procedures to support multidisciplinary medical and biological research that are available at the college levels. One of the most important aims that the Center has embarked to achieve since 2015 is to obtain international accreditation in order to increase performance efficiency. In 2017, the Center obtained international accreditation according to ISO 17025 specifications in the fields of diagnosing Legionella (culture testing) and Brucella microbes (serology testing). It is also in the path of acquiring a third accreditation for molecular testing.

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The strategic vision of the Center for Biomedical Research reflects the University’s and the State’s strategy in general, especially under the current circumstances where Qatar is passing through in terms of the blockade and emerging diseases. Based on these up-and-coming conditions, the Center decided to focus its research interests on another important field, which is disease-free food, as a topic of a global concern.

In addition to the above and following the “One Health” approach (human-animal-environment interphase), the Center has launched research studies on epidemiology and molecular characterization of the most common pathogens in the environment: air quality in health settings and water quality in waste water treatment plants. All the above projects are of utmost importance because of the expected mass gatherings, especially when Qatar hosts the World Cup in 2022.

Due to the expansion of the industrial sector in the country, the limited availability of land spaces, and the rapid urban environment, to the center has taken the lead to identify and preserve the species of domestic creatures. Accordingly, the Center has sought, in cooperation with local teams inside (environmental sciences center) and outside the University, to decode the genetic code of the various animal species threatened with extinction. That is within the framework of the recently established program for environmental genome research.

The Center’s future endeavors would be summed as follows:  Develop scientific research on communicable and non-communicable diseases; train undergraduate, graduate students, and technicians on using research cutting-edge technologies; increase research output by publishing in reputable and high impact world journals; enhance cooperation with local and international research centers; obtain international accreditation according to ISO 17025-quality standard; develop and implement a number of Continued Professional Development Programs (CPD) through conducting workshops and seminars in the field of biomedical research based on the community needs; cooperate with respective stakeholders and counterpart entities.