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UAE to open first robotic biobank in 2023

A biobank is a type of biorepository that stores biological samples, usually human), for use in research Creative Commons
A biobank is a type of biorepository that stores biological samples, usually human), for use in research

Al Jalila Foundation, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, will establish the UAE’s first robotic biobank, in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). 

The collaboration will advance medical research in the areas of genetic disorders, cancer and other chronic diseases and pandemics.

Set to open in 2023 with a capacity to manage seven million specimens, the biobank will be one of the world’s largest in terms of sample capacity. 

“Access to genetic and imaging data through biobanks is driving forward pioneering approaches to analysis that would have been impossible just a few years ago,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairperson of Al Jalila Foundation Board of Trustees, said.

“The launch of the UAE’s first robotic biobank reflects Dubai’s commitment to strengthening the capabilities of the healthcare sector and advancing efforts to improve people’s health. 

“The biobank will serve as a major contributor to the advancement of modern medicine and will enable scientific discoveries that will help enhance the health and wellbeing of the community.”

A biobank is a place to store all types of human biological samples, such as blood, tissue, cells or body fluids. It also stores data related to the samples as well as other biomolecular resources that can be used in health research. 

Biobanks have become an important resource in medical research, supporting many types of contemporary research like genomics and personalised medicine, and the development of diagnostics and therapeutics.

Al Jalila Foundation is investing AED17 million to build the facility.

An automated, robotic, artificial intelligence-based system will ensure biological samples are secured in cryogenic storage (below 80 degree Celsius) maintaining proper sample integrity and retrieval.

The UAE’s diverse population, with people from varied ethnicities and nationalities, will provide a valuable platform for comparative studies on genetic, environmental, nutritional habits and behavioural aspects. 

Biobanks can give researchers access to data representing a large number of people.

Samples in biobanks and the data derived from those samples can often be used by multiple researchers for cross-purpose research studies.