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Haya H Al Muhannadi
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First Award Announced under Qatar National Research Fund "National Priorities Research Program - Exceptional Proposal" Initiative

Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, has announced the first award of the National Priorities Research Program - Exceptional Proposal (NPRP-EP). One of the six proposals reviewed has been granted an award of US$4.5 million over a period of five years.

The awarded proposal titled “Establishing world leadership in date palm research in Qatar” was submitted by Professor Karsten Suhre, Director of the Bioinformatics Core at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q).

The proposal combines two innovative technologies that are well established at WCMC-Q, genomics and metabolomics, in an interdisciplinary approach to date palm research, addressing major challenges of the field. WCMC-Q is collaborating with the Biotechnology Center, Ministry of Environment, in the State of Qatar, the Helmholtz Centre, Munich, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, and the European Institute for Research and Development.

Dr. Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, Executive Director, QNRF said: The proposed research is considered to be highly innovative and has great potential to generate IP rights and patents, which will position Qatar as an international leader in date palm research with positive benefits in terms of fundamental innovation in applied biotechnology. It is also expected that the research outcomes will lead to opportunities for economic development and diversification in Qatar.

NPRP-EP is an extension of QNRF’s flagship funding Program, the NPRP, and gives an extra funding opportunity for proposals of exceptional scientific merit that require resources in excess of the normal level of NPRP funding. There is a maximum budget of US$5 million for a period of up to five years. The Program solicits applications from scientists with exceptional ideas, approaches, procedures and models that may solve key issues of national, regional or global interest. Application to the Program is open throughout the year, where Lead Principal Investigators (LPIs) first submit an Initial Research Proposal (IRP) containing around 10 pages of information about the proposal that will be given as a presentation in front of a panel of expert and stakeholders. This is a gating procedure to the next step of submitting the full proposal, and those who are approved by the panel are allowed to submit a full proposal that is sent to seven peer reviewers for evaluation. The award decision is based on the score and the peer reviewers comments, which are shared with the panel for their final recommendation.

Ms. Noor Al-Merekhi, NPRP Program Manager, added: Proposals submitted for the NPRP-EP are expected to contain exceptional ideas and so be of great significance to Qatar, hence the panel gating stage at the beginning. The submission for the NPRP-EP is open, and we currently have eight proposals in different research areas that passed the panel gating and are in the process of having their full proposals submitted to us.

NPRP-EP is making an important contribution to Qatar transformation to a knowledge-based economy. The innovative proposals awarded will advance the nations capabilities and enhance Qatar's credibility as a pioneer of ground-breaking science and research initiatives.

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