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The future of UAE healthcare is preventive, predictive, and precision-led

Article-The future of UAE healthcare is preventive, predictive, and precision-led

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The country is in the lead with public and private players working together to provide the necessary infrastructure for quality healthcare access at a lower cost.

Perhaps it would be safe to say that no other industry has seen such rapid and transformational changes in the last decade as healthcare has. Our perceptions, understanding, and even the ethos of the global healthcare systems have changed dramatically to foster a tailored and proactive health ecosystem. 

From technology-driven and advanced medical technology to AI predictive modelling, enhanced genomic variant sequencing, smart wearables, and telemedicine, there has been a fundamental shift from reactive “sick care” to lifelong “healthcare”. Scientific and technological innovations make it possible for us to find predictive and preventative solutions while growing our understanding of disease progression and developing targeted therapies.  

The UAE healthcare ecosystem has embraced data insights for decision-making in consumer-driven health, with a growing focus on preventive care, advancements in patient care delivery, public-private partnerships, and digital transformation.  

The UAE government has allocated Dh4.9 billion (8.4 per cent of the total federal budget) to healthcare and community protection in the federal budget for 2022-2026. Investments in innovation, research, science, and technology are key to the UAE’s strategic shift towards knowledge-based economic development.  

Dr. Walid Zaher

Dr. Walid Zaher, Chief Research Officer of G42 Healthcare

The ecosystem has public and private players working together to provide the UAE with the necessary infrastructure to ensure quality healthcare access to more people at a lower cost and to reduce the burden of disease in the country.  

At G42 Healthcare, we believe that the future of health is being led by preventative, precision medicine, including tailored therapies and proactive lifestyle changes based on high-quality research, more robust data, and cutting-edge technology.  

This novel approach to disease treatment and prevention considers the precise degree of variability in genetics, environment, and lifestyle within and between each person. The UAE leadership acknowledges the importance of this understanding that allows healthcare providers to make a more accurate diagnosis and create specialised action and treatment plans. 

To complement the nation’s forward-thinking healthcare vision, leaders like G42 Healthcare champion cutting-edge technology through the entire value chain to bring in the right solutions and integrated responses to address the healthcare needs of the UAE and the region. 

Offerings in clinical genetics and consumer genomics aim to grant access to treatments based on a genetic understanding of the individual’s body and their specific health profile, helping doctors create personalised treatment plans. This can help improve outcomes dramatically even in some of the world’s most serious chronic ailments and enhance everyday life.  

Some of these initiatives are fronted by Biogenix Labs and Omics Centre of Excellence, located in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, which are the region’s largest and most technologically advanced omics facilities. These sites allowed for the creation of the de novo Emirati reference genome — a crucial step towards precision medicine that will support a more robust and inclusive healthcare system in the region.  

The flourishing study of omics and multi-omics, including proteomics and genomics, has long-term implications for healthcare, food security, and agriculture, supporting the UAE’s vision for the future. Integrating these fields of science introduces precision medicine, advances animal health, promotes sustainable agriculture, and helps prepare the region to be resilient against upcoming challenges. 

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the UAE to become a global leader in value-based healthcare. We started fighting the pandemic by establishing the one of the world’s most significant diagnostic infrastructures, the Biogenix Labs – the UAE’s first COVID-19-accredited, large-scale, high-throughput laboratory — in just 14 days. The lab has conducted more than 2.5 million PCR tests to date, assisted in the UAE’s back-to-school programme with its groundbreaking non-invasive saliva testing methods, conducted virus strain surveillance, and helped restart large-scale events in the UAE, such as the EXPO 2020 Dubai, UFC Fight Island, and Formula 1, as well as supported in resuming seamless international travel. 

Today, diversity in the healthcare research space is crucial because not all humans react identically to treatments and interventions; research can correct inaccurate assumptions of uniformity. Treating on a human-by-human basis effects the effectiveness of the medication and the overall quality of care. Currently, very few countries have the capacity for research and lack a robust regulatory framework and capacities to enact broad-spectrum personalised care. Historically, the MENA region is one of the least clinical trials saturated and researched, even though it has a good population size, a large pool of eligible patients, and diversity in genetic profile, lifestyle, and eating habits.  

Insights Research Organization and Solutions (IROS) facilitates cutting-edge, expert research and clinical trials, particularly in the underrepresented MENA region, through trials that include a diverse ethnic composition. This leads to a dramatic increase in the understanding and use of therapeutics for local communities, enabling pharmaceutical companies to develop new medications and drugs intelligently and enter new markets more efficiently.  

As a UAE-based homegrown contract research organization (CRO), IROS brings curated expertise, advanced technology, and robust infrastructure to this region and to the global stage, highlighting the importance of diversity in scientific and medical research. 

Our recent collaboration with the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, to establish the Centre of Digital Health will accelerate digital transformation across the healthcare ecosystem, from patients, providers, payers, and regulators to pharma and beyond. Our proprietary HealthSight platform powers the unification of multimodal healthcare datasets and enables insight generation through advanced analytics and machine learning. The range of solutions not only helps achieve the primary goal of healthcare — better outcomes through patient-centric care— but also enables a reduction in the cost of care and improved experience for patients and care staff, including physicians and nurses. 

As a physician myself, I believe clinicians are instrumental in placing preventive medicine in their practice to prolong life and reduce the burden on their patients. Technology-first companies should wholeheartedly champion the transformations that aim to bring about a new era of healthcare — one that is preventive, predictive, and precision-led.  

Dr. Walid Zaher is the Chief Research Officer at G42 Healthcare. He has been the Vaccine Trial Lead in the Phase-III clinical trials of the Sinopharm inactivated vaccine against COVID-19 in the UAE.
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