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HBKU college gets QNRF grants for Parkinson’s, breast cancer research
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HBKU college gets QNRF grants for Parkinson’s, breast cancer research

Doha: Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), has won two Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) grants to support research efforts of its College of Science and Engineering. 

Both grants are for three years  each and focus biomedical and biological science research being undertaken in Qatar.

One grant supports research on Parkinson’s disease and the other on research into breast cancer. As the university continues to encourage innovative research on issues of local and global concern, the projects aim to enhance chances of early detection and successful drug treatment.

Dr Omar El Agnaf, Professor of Life Science at the college, will be the Lead Principal Investigator on a project that will better define key biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease, a chronic condition that results from the degeneration of nerve cells in a central part of the brain. 

He and his team will explore mechanisms for early diagnosis to help make it possible for doctors to intervene with protective and preventive therapy before the disease progresses, and allow for its better management. Dr El Agnaf’s previous research on Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s is extensive and he is considered a pioneer in the field. 

Several patented inventions have emerged from research in the UK and the Gulf, and his discoveries have offered opportunities for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

Dr El Agnaf said: “Despite progress in understanding the underlying mechanisms of Parkinson’s and related diseases, there remains an urgent need to develop methods for use in diagnosis. Developing such methods is important from a patient standpoint and in terms of research and clinical trials. I am pleased that QNRF has decided to support research targeted at helping develop a simple diagnostic test to aid clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s and related diseases. The financial backing will help us move forward with our investigations.”

The second grant is for research led by Dr Imed Gallouzi, Professor of Life Science at the college, as Lead Principal Investigator in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar’s Dr Lotfi Chouchane as Principal Investigator. 

The project will expand on Dr Gallouzi’s initial research and work to identify novel protein players in promoting the death of breast cancer cells and tumours. If successful, it will offer key insight into combatting the disease and aid doctors and practitioners treating patients.

Dr Gallouzi joined HBKU in 2014, bringing a strong history in cellular research relating to cancer. 

In 2000, he co-discovered stress granules within cells and in 2012 his observations connecting stress granule formation to prevention of cancer-induced muscle was selected by Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute as one of the top 10 findings of the year.

Dr Gallouzi said: “I am grateful to QNRF for the grant. This will allow my research group to continue work on delineating the causes behind the onset of breast cancer, one of Qatar’s grand challenges in health research. 

“I am proud that the quality of research to be performed in the laboratory at HBKU has been recognised by my peers in Qatar and QNRF.”

Both research form part of development of the college, which later this year will welcome the first batch of Master’s and PhD students to join its Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Environment, and Biomedical and Biological Sciences programmes and the first batch of undergraduate computer engineering students.

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