Doha, April 29, 2018: Qatar Genome Programme (QGP), a member of Qatar Foundation (QF), welcomed more than 1,200 healthcare providers, researchers, and experts to its second symposium at the Qatar National Convention Centre today.
The symposium, held under the theme ‘Ethics, Regulations, and Best Practices in Genomic Medicine’, is in collaboration with the Ministry of the Public Health and the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics.
Professor Asmaa Al Thani, Chairperson of the Qatar Genome Programme Committee and Board Vice Chairperson of Qatar Biobank, welcomed the delegates by emphasizing the importance of the symposium’s theme: “Each genomic breakthrough comes with corresponding moral, ethical and legal issues, including ones we may not have anticipated,” she said. “It is our responsibility to address these concerns with the same rigor that we conduct our research. This means understanding the cultural and religious traditions and restrictions of our patients, so we can best serve them.”
Professor Richard O’Kennedy, Vice President of QF Research, Development and Innovation, noted: “For everyone now, the genome is very exciting, and we are at a stage where we can begin to understand the biology that underpins who we are, and use that knowledge to improve the quality of life in Qatar and around the world. To me, we are at the start of a fantastic journey, and the future is in our hands.”
Keynote speaker Dr Kathy Farndon, former Head of Genomics Data and Informatics at England’s National Health Service, discussed the challenges and successes of integrating research and clinical care in the context of the NHS’s 100,000 Genomes Project.
“There are so many opportunities for us. And yes, there will be diversions, and dead ends, and all sorts of hurdles,” she said. “We don’t even know what questions to ask, but that is what keeps us motivated. We need to share with each other and learn from each other - that is absolutely critical.”
Dr. Said Ismail, QGP Program Manager, outlined QGP’s activities to date, including the sequencing of more than 10,000 Qatari genomes, the establishment of a genomic research consortium, and the launching of degree programs in Genomic and Precision Medicine (at Hamad Bin Khalifa University) and Genomic Counseling (at Qatar University).
“The classical medical care of one size fits all will soon be the past, because many people are getting suboptimal care under that model, explained Dr. Said. “The future is precision medicine. The future is medical care tailored around your genome at the preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic levels. This will lead to more accurate diagnosis and treatment, and most important, better prevention.”
The first day featured three sessions, including presentations and panel discussions, on three broad topics: National Genome Projects: Governance, Policies and Regulations; Genomic Data Ownership, Sharing and Integration into the Health System; and Delivery of Genomic Data.
The second day concluded with discussions about genetic counseling and genomics in the context of Islamic ethics.