The pilot phase of the Qatar Genome Programme, which debuted in September 2015, was the first stage during which all national stakeholders started coordinating efforts and embarked on a well-planned national strategy to implement Precision Medicine in Qatar.
Currently, the QGP, in its phase one, differentiates itself from other disease-based research projects in the region in being a population-based initiative using DNA samples collected by Qatar Biobank from deeply-phenotyped apparently-healthy individuals.
One of the main ongoing goals of phase one is to establish the Qatari Reference Genome Map by sequencing a representative number of whole genomes. Establishing this reference map will help identify specific gene variants distinctive of the local population, especially those related to various inherited genetic diseases. Such a map will also help policymakers to start incorporating genomic data into the health care system to better diagnose, treat and even prevent many diseases.
In this context, QGP is working closely with a Publication Steering Working Group and a QGP Consortium to coordinate research collaborations with local researchers working on analyzing the data coming from the thousands of genomes that are sequenced. Now, many are in the process to publish their results in high impact journals. QGP is also working on promoting genomic research in Qatar in a partnership with the main local research funding agency, the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), to support experts and researchers working in the field. This has led to the success of the first two and launching the 3rd cycle of a research funding program, the Path towards Precision Medicine (PPM).
One of the achievements of this phase was to collaborate with the Ministry of Public Health where we drafted a policy and guidelines for the design, ethical review, and conduct of genomic research in Qatar with the ministry's research department.
In the human capacity area, QGP initiated two new graduate programmes in Genomic Medicine and Genetic Counseling in collaboration with Hamad Bin Khalifa University and Qatar University, respectively, as well as, embarked on organizing a series of related internship programmes, workshops, and conferences.
QGP also conducted surveys to gauge the public as well as professional healthcare providers awareness and attitudes regarding genomic medicine to explore the gaps to be filled by our programme. These surveys showed promising results in the vision to implement precision medicine practices in Qatar and are in the process of publication.
In its current and coming phases, QGP future goals aim to steer the wheel of the collaborative efforts of stakeholders and research teams outcomes from bench research to clinical implementation, thus; leading to the integration of Precision Medicine into the healthcare systems in Qatar.