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Department of Health – Abu Dhabi and Khalifa University Develop Reagent to Extract COVID-19 RNA

27 Jul, 2020: ​Collaboration Initiative with Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), Abu Dhabi Ports Company and Unilabs

The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), in collaboration with ADQ and its portfolio companies Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and Abu Dhabi Ports Company, as well as Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KU) and Unilabs, has successfully manufactured a chemical solution that is designed to extract COVID-19 RNA. The chemical solution was created over the course of two weeks and is one of the key components for testing the virus.

This milestone is aligned with local efforts aimed at achieving the highest levels of self-sufficiency and supporting precautionary measures taken to curb the spread of the virus in the country. The UAE has been among the first nations to reach out and lend a helping hand to those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which shows a clear reflection of its humanitarian role in times of crisis.

DoH explained that the chemical solution, which has already proven its effectiveness, is manufactured in specialised laboratories in Abu Dhabi. The solution is then produced in industrial quantities; the first batch 200, 000 units are currently being developed. The solution's daily production rate will cover 25% of the sector's daily demand. This is especially pertinent, as this same quantity was previously imported from outside the UAE. Abu Dhabi is now independently manufacturing the solution, showing high quality results in comparison to the same solution previously imported. The next few batches are expected to include 1 million units.

The COVID-19 testing process undergoes three main technical steps; collecting swabs taken from patients, extracting the RNA from the virus, and then using the solution to analyse and verify whether the person's test results are positive or negative. 

HE Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, Chairman of DoH, said: "With unwavering determination, the UAE continues to take steps to unify teams at all levels in order to confront the virus. The success that we have achieved with our partners in manufacturing the chemical solution is yet another milestone that we take pride in and complements the efforts to support the country's drive to contain and control the virus."

"This imperative step will further boost our objective of expanding the scope and capabilities of COVID-19 testing, where the UAE is leading the way. To this day, more than 2 million tests have been carried out in the emirate. We are grateful for the UAE's ongoing commitment to prioritising the health and well-being of members of society," Al Hamed added. 

DoH pointed out that, despite the availability of the solution in sufficient quantities, the regulator is keen to cooperate and coordinate with all parties concerned to move forward in its locally manufacturing the solution, utilising a solid infrastructure, advanced science and technology, as well as its wealth of expertise and knowledge in order to reinforce the national capabilities in mitigating potential future challenges that might emerge in light of this pandemic. 

Jaap Kalkman, Chief Investment Officer of ADQ, one of the region's largest holding companies with a diverse portfolio of major enterprises in Abu Dhabi, said: "Drawing on the knowledge and resources from our healthcare and logistics experts at ADQ and our portfolio companies, we took an agile and collaborative approach to help bring together multiple partners in order to set new standards of excellence in our local healthcare ecosystem."

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: "We are delighted to be part of this great achievement, one of several initiatives that aim to obtain innovative solutions against the COVID-19 pandemic, with researchers at Khalifa University. We are also proud to contribute, along with the Department of Health and other stakeholders, to support the UAE's efforts in preventing the spread of the disease and enhancing the country's pioneering status in extracting the RNA of the novel Coronavirus, indicating the excellence of research infrastructure in the country in general and Khalifa University in particular."

Dr. Al Hammadi added: "Through its ground-breaking research facilities and appropriate human capital, Khalifa University, represented by Center for Biotechnology, has contributed enthusiastically to this distinguished project. Emirati researchers from Khalifa University have worked on the project, producing the chemical solution within the university's laboratories, ensuring its quality and compliance with the highest standards, signifying Khalifa University's local and global reputation as a top-notch academic institution specializing in education and research."

Mohammed Daoud, General Manager of Unilabs Middle East, said: "In view of these extraordinary times, we greatly appreciate the relentless efforts of the UAE's wise government in maintaining the health and safety of the people through the provision of COVID-19 testing for the largest possible portion of the population, setting an exceptional record at the global level. At Unilabs, we are fully committed to utilizing our expertise and technical resources in partnership with the authorities to setup a significant local testing capacity and support in the manufacturing of the RNA extraction solution locally by sharing the scientific knowledge of our global experts and have them travel into the UAE, in a step to enhance the national capabilities. "We are proud to support the tremendous efforts of the Department of Health Abu Dhabi and its measures which constitute a global model for dealing with COVID-19 pandemic," Daoud added.

It is worth mentioning that MoU was signed by DoH, Khalifa University of Science and Technology and UNILABS. It sets the tone for establishing a general framework of cooperation and mutual coordination between the parties, as well as assigns the roles and responsibilities for the procedures related to the chemical solution manufacturing. 

DoH urges all members of the society to continue following all precautionary measures to stop the spread of the virus. This includes practicing social distancing and maintaining a safe distance of 6 feet or 2 metres approximately from others. In addition, DoH urges the public to contact ISTIJABA call centre on 8001717, if they suspect that an individual is infected with COVID-19, or head to any of the emirate's testing centres in case of experiencing any symptoms. 
 

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