This activity is an Accredited Group Learning Activity (Category 1) as defined by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners – Accreditation Department and is approved for a maximum of 12.25 hours.

March 14th, 2017

Speaker - Affiliation
07:30 – 08:15
Breakfast and Registration
08:15 – 08:50
Welcome and Opening Remarks


H.E.Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari - Minister of Public Health - Managing Director of Hamad Medical Corporation
Dr. Hamad Abdulrahman H I Al-Ibrahim- - Executive Vice President, Qatar Foundation – Research and Development
08:50 - 09:10


Eng. Pasquale De Blasio, Chair of Qatar Biobanking Congress and CEO of ISENET, Milan, Italy

The shape of the global health care system is changing rapidly to an approach that is much more patient-centered focusing on “precision medicine.” This is particularly due to the large-scale “omics” biology results that relied on using and sharing sample collections and databases contained within bio-resource facilities. “Personalized medicine” or “precision medicine” is the premise to help individuals to get the “right medicine for the right problem at the right time.

The objectives and goals of the meeting are to discuss with international experts how:

  • "Personalized Medicine" is changing the Health Care Systems around the world"
  • "Qatar Biobank" can contribute to the "Personalized Medicine Initiative in Qatar"

The congress will also host two important workshops:

  • The importance of "Human Disease Biobank"
  • "Middle East Biobanking Network"
09:00 - 09:40
Key Note Lecture on Personalized MedicineChair: Prof. Asmaa Al-Thani
09:10 – 09:40


Dr. Edward Abrahams - President - Personalized Medicine Coalition, Washington DC, USA

Personalized medicine is an evolving field in which physicians use diagnostic tests to determine which treatments will work best for each patient. By combining the data from those tests with an individual’s medical history, circumstances and values, health care providers can develop targeted treatment and prevention plans. In so doing, personalized medicine promises to improve clinical outcomes for patients as well as increase the efficiency of health systems around the world by directing resources to where they will be most productive.

In a talk titled, “Personalized Medicine: The Changing Landscape of Health Care,” Personalized Medicine Coalition President Edward Abrahams will discuss the advantages of personalized medicine, its current status, the obstacles to its development and adoption, and also propose an agenda for its future in the United States and other nations, including Qatar.

09:40 – 11:20

Chair: Prof. Kurt Zatloukal
09:40 – 10:00


Prof. Asmaa Al-Thani - Vice Chairperson of Qatar Biobank Board and Chairperson of Qatar Genome Program

Qatar Biobank is a member of Qatar Foundation, and was created in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation and the Ministry of Public Health to enable local scientists to conduct medical research on prevalent health issues in Qatar.

Qatar Biobank aims to establish a research enterprise platform across Qatar to achieve extraordinary improvement in diagnostic and prognostic intelligence required to deliver personalized health care for the benefit of people in Qatar, the region and worldwide.

Qatar Biobank serves as a platform and driver of health research through recruiting large numbers of the Qatari population to contribute biological samples and information about their health and lifestyle.

Information and samples contributed by participants to Qatar Biobank will help researchers understand how lifestyle, environment and genes affect health in Qatar. This knowledge will help develop medical treatment and disease prevention for the health of Qatar’s children and grandchildren.

Qatar Biobank will play an important role in developing research into the risk factors for obesity and related diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, which are major health challenges for the Qatari population, where around 17 percent of the adult population suffers from type-2 diabetes.

The health information and samples collected by Qatar Biobank on the population of Qatar will allow researchers to better understand diseases that affect our communities and will lead to tailored healthcare and personalized medicines.

10:00 – 10:20


Dr. Said Ismail - Qatar Genome Project Program Manager

As one of the most ambitious medical research endeavours in the region, the Qatar Genome Program (QGP) is spearheading the implementation of advanced precision medicine and personalized healthcare in Qatar.

The Qatar Genome Program is designed around on a comprehensive strategy that is built on seven fundamental building blocks: the Qatar Biobank; building genomic infrastructure; drafting regulations and policies; forging research partnerships; establishing genomic data network; building local human capacity; and finally integration of genomics into healthcare system. The accomplishment of these building blocks will ensure that Qatar a leading position in the field of precision medicine.

The Pilot Phase of the program was successfully launched in September 2015, and the main goal of revealing the key features of the Qatari Genome Map by sequencing 3,000 whole genomes by the end of 2016. This will help in identifying the genetic variants distinctive of the local population related to rare as well as common disease. Other pilot phase goals include promoting genomic research in Qatar through special QNRF grants in addition to encouraging multicentre research teams to work on the data being produced by QGP. QGP is also taking the lead in building local human capacity through its internship program, workshops and symposia, as well as taking the initiative in starting new graduate programs in genomic medicine and genetic counselling in collaboration with local universities.

On the ethical, legal and social fronts, QGP is involved many related projects including its collaboration with the ministry of public health to draft a national policy that would represent an umbrella to genomic research ethics and regulations. Also, QGP is conducting nationwide benchmarking surveys to measure public, professional and decision makers’ views and perceptions on genomic medicine. The results of these surveys would help us tailor the next stages of the program around the specific needs of the local community.

10:20 – 10:40


Ms. Noor Al-MerekhiDirector of Programs, Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF)

Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) a member of Qatar Foundation R&D is the sole research funding agency in Qatar that aims to enable competitively selected research to address Qatar National Research Strategy (QNRS). The first phase of QNRF was directed towards building research culture in Qatar mainly through its flagship program the National Priority Research Program (NPRP). Now QNRF is embarking in a new chapter with new challenges and bigger role for delivering concrete outcomes to achieve QNRS vision, and hence it was vital to focus QNRF’s investment to address Qatar’s research grand challenges in collaboration with their end-users. Two routes of grant support were developed; NPRP priority themes and the jointly funded calls under the Thematic and Grand challenges Research Program (TGRP), the later seeks to establish joint collaboration and funding with local and/or international end-user/funding agencies, addressing research priorities that are of common interest. One of these calls is Path towards Personalized Medicine (PPM) jointly funded with Qatar Genome Program (QGP) and in collaboration with Qatar BioBank (QBB) in 2016. PPM call was designed to build on the pilot phase of QGP that was announced by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser during (WISH) 2013, supporting the research needed to take the program to the next stage of development. QNRF designed TGRP calls in a way that each call will have its own steering committee representing the end-users in Qatar. PPM’s research priorities were set by a steering committee, to pave the way to advance research related to providing tailored healthcare for patients depending on their genetic background and guide decisions related to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. Five projects were awarded from the first call in March 2016, in which three of them were to conduct follow-up studies on the QGP pilot sequencing efforts and the remaining two were designed to building definitive genetic and clinical epidemiology databases for Qatar. A second call was recently launched based on a recommendation by PPM’s steering committee in Dec 2016 to push further the research agenda for QGP. The second call looks at three major themes; Discovery, Translational Research and Community Engagement, and Ethics and Policies in Precision Medicine. In order to achieve the intended outcome for PPM and QGP, QNRF plays an important role filling needed research gaps through working with all the relevant end-users and stakeholders making sure that such investments follow comprehensive national strategies and synergies, and coordinate the efforts among stakeholders to make use of existing available research infrastructure.

10:40 – 11:00


Prof. Elio Riboli - Professor of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, Imperial College London, London UK

Over the past decades, a growing number of large population cohort studies with extensive exposure information and stored bio samples have been developed in different regions of the world. These studies include early cohorts with extensive follow-up of up to 30 years, as well as more recently established cohorts with shorter follow-up time but often with richer baseline phenotype and exposure information. Worldwide, the three largest cohort studies with biobank are the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC), the China Kadoorie Biobank and the UK Biobank. All three cohorts have recruited 500,000 participants. EPIC was initiated in the 1990s, coordinated by IARC in collaboration with 23 collaborating centre in 10 countries. After 20 years of follow-up EPIC has accrued over 80,000 incident cases of cancer, over 26,000 cases of CHD and stroke and over 16,000 cases of type 2 diabetes. The EPIC database has become a shared research infrastructure used by hundreds of researchers in Europe and across the world ( EPIC and a number of other European cohorts have built a collaboration network that has materialized in the “Large Population Cohort” FP7 programme of the BBMRI infrastructure (

Population cohorts have greatly contributed to the advancement of our scientific understanding of the causes of chronic diseases. The first historical example was the demonstration of the carcinogenicity of tobacco smoke by the British Doctors Cohort in the 1950s. The list of causes of cancer and other chronic diseases discovered thanks to cohort studies is very long and include environmental, occupational, behavioural, pharmacological, nutritional exposures as well as endogenous metabolic and hormonal characteristics. A more recent development is the unique role of cohorts in research focused on the interaction between genetic and epigenetic characteristics in combination with environmental exposures and endogenous/metabolic characteristics. By supporting the investigation of the biological interplay of inherited and acquired risk factors, cohort studies have the potential to help epidemiology to contribute beyond the identification of disease risk factors into the realm of understanding causal links.

11:00 - 11:20
11:20 – 11:40
Coffee Break
11:40 – 13:20

Chair: Dr. Edward Abrahams
11:40 - 12:00


Mr. Ma'n Zawati - Executive Director, Lawyer Centre of Genomics and Policy, McGill University, Montreal - Canada

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “to benefit” is “to do good to, to be of advantage or profit to; to improve, help forward”. The concept of benefit in medical research has received varying interpretations in the past few decades. While some authors link it to financial benefit, others give it a more therapeutic connotation. But very often, whether participants expect to receive benefits will be linked to how they understand their participation in medical research. Population biobanks are an example of projects in which direct benefits to individuals are not expected. Accordingly, they offer an example of a practice that transcends the traditional individual-centered perspective in the researcher-participant relationship. This presentation will explore this trend as it applies to large-scale population studies and examine whether a shift from the individual per se to society at large (through better health care, education, etc.) can usher in a new definition of what it means to benefit from medical research.

12:00 – 12:20


Prof. Mats Hasson - Centre for Research, Ethics & Bioethics (CRB) - UPPSALA University, Sweden.

Large national and international biobank and genetic studies can make significant contributions by validating the biological significance of previous research, detecting previous unknown causes of disease and provide new opportunities for diagnosis and treatment. Patients and donors of bio-specimens are the key stake-holders of biobank-related research and they have multiple interests. As sample donors and sources of data they have interests related to protection of privacy and prevention of use by unauthorized persons. As end users of research they have interests related to improved diagnosis, new treatments and new medical products as well as general research interests. In my presentation I will suggest how these interest may be balanced in order to promote both privacy protection and efficient use of samples and data for previously collected samples and for prospective sampling. I will also suggest a Code of Practice for those involved in research.

12:20 - 12:40


Dr. Mohammed Ghaly - Research Centre for Islamic Legislation & Ethics (CILE) College of Islamic Studies (CIS) Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), Qatar

Ethical deliberations within the Islamic tradition on genomics started as early as in 1993, as part of the global interest in the then newly starting Human Genome Project (HGP) and its possible ethical implications. In February 1993, an international seminar entitled “Ethical Implications of Modern Researches in Genetics” was organized by the Faculty of Science at the University of Qatar. During the period 1993-2015, at least twelve expert meetings have addressed issues related to genomics and Islamic ethics.

These meetings combined between Muslim religious and biomedical scientists who approached genomics and Islamic ethics from an interdisciplinary perspective, known in Islamic studies as collective ijtihad (independent legal reasoning). Besides the approach of collective ijtihad, some religious scholars contributed to these discussions, on individual basis, by writing their own articles and books.

During this presentation, a concise overview of the key ethical questions related to genomics which have busied the minds of both Muslim religious and biomedical scientist. I will also explore the main points of (dis)agreement on these key questions, the main issues which still need further investigation and what all this should mean for the ongoing genomic initiatives in the Gulf region and Muslim world in general.

12:40 – 13:00


Dr. Marianna J. Bledsoe - Chair, Science Policy Committee, International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories - Deputy Editor, Biopreservation and Biobanking, USA

Precision Medicine offers tremendous promise to make major improvements in the way individual patients are treated and cared for. Precision medicine has the potential to not only make treatments more effective for patients but may also spare them of the co-morbidities associated with treatments that may not be effective for them. Great strides have been made in research towards the development of precision medicine. However, these advances raise complex ethical, regulatory, and practical challenges, particularly in the context of biobanking. The increasing use of whole genome technologies and wide-spread specimen and data sharing in research towards precision medicine raises many questions, including how to obtain meaningful consent and how best to protect the privacy of research participants and the confidentiality of their data. In addition, research towards precision medicine raises complex ethical, regulatory and practical issues regarding the return of research results and international data sharing. Finally, maintaining public trust and biobank sustainability will be critical to the success of such research. This presentation will discuss some of these issues and challenges in the context of biobanking and suggest approaches for addressing them.

13:00 - 13:20
13:20 – 14:30
Networking Lunch
14:30 – 17:20
14:30 - 14:50


Dr. Carolyn M. HutterProgram Director in the Division of Genomic Medicine at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda MD, USA

The National Human Genome Research Institute, in close collaboration with its research community and partners at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is pursuing a multi-disciplinary research agenda to identify genetic contributions to human disease and to advance approaches for the use of genomic data to improve diagnosis and population health. This talk will provide an overview of progress and key findings from NIH funded projects that aim to identify rare variants associated with complex disease, utilize next-generation sequencing in clinical care, curate clinically actionable variants, and facilitate precision medicine studies.

14:50 – 15:10


Dr. Andrew Brooks - Chief Operating Officer of RUCDR Infinite Biologics and an Associate Professor of Genetics at Rutgers University – Rutgers, New Jersey, USA

Implementation of biobanking best practices and analytical platform standardization are two important components for any data generation associated with precision medicine applications. Sample collection, pre analytical variables, controlled environment storage and sample processing can often have a large impact on the quality of biomaterials.  The creation and implementation of centralized biobank programs which include activities such as tissue and bio-fluid processing for nucleic acid, protein preparation and viable cell preservation for molecular/functional analyses are all critical for discovery and diagnostic applications for a variety of clinical disciplines.  Technology platform and information technology standardization for creating high quality biomaterials can be one of the greatest challenges in establishing a precision medicine program.  This presentation will describe how to standardize biobanking efforts in a manner commensurate with both academic and industrial partnerships. Data will be presented on the governance of bio sample collections, standardization efforts, and quality control harmonization for bio samples and global best practices for the regulatory oversight of national biobank resources. Several case studies will be presented to illustrate how the proper implementation and management of harmonized biobank principles lead to the establishment of a resource that can be used for both basic and clinical science with a focus on developing therapeutic regimens and companion diagnostics in the precision medicine space.

15:10 – 15:30


Prof. Ida Biunno - Senior Researcher at Institute for Genetic and Biomedical Research of the National Research Council (IRGB-CNR), Milano- Italy

DNA is a long molecule containing all the information and instructions (organized genes) necessary to build and maintain all cells in the body. To carry out the instructions the DNA must be "copied" and transcribed generating what is known as transcripts. The transcriptome (sequencing of the entire RNA) complements the genome studies since it represents the readouts of all the genes present in a cell. There are various kinds of RNAs and not only messenger RNAs, has DNA encoded also for other types of RNAs that do not code for proteins but regulate cell function. Since the sequence of the RNA mirrors that of the DNA consequently, the transcriptomes enables researches to generate a comprehensive, genome-wide picture of which genes are active within a given cell.

It is then very important to bank, alongside the DNA, RNA from the same subjects and by comparing transcriptomes of different types of cells, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes a specific cell type, how that type of cell normally functions, and how changes in the normal level of gene activity may reflect or contribute to diseases.

In addition, transcriptomes enables researchers to generate a comprehensive, genome-wide photograph of which genes are active and which are silenced in a given biological system.

15:30 - 15:50


Prof. Kurt Zatloukal - Director of the Austrian National Node of BBMRI-ERIC, the European Biobanking and Biomolecular Research Infrastructure, Graz, Austria
Abstract: Prof. Kurt Zatloukal, Institute of Pathology, Medical University of Graz Austria

Biological resources, such as bio-fluids, tissues, cells or isolated biomolecules are the essential raw material for the advancement of human health, and for research and development in life sciences. The European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has prioritized in its first roadmap the establishment of a pan-European research infrastructure for biobanking and biomolecular resources (BBMRI) to secure sustainable access to these key resources. BBMRI has been implemented under the ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) legal entity in 2013. BBMRI-ERIC has its Central Executive Management Office (“Headquarter”) in Austria that coordinates the interaction of National Nodes established in 19 European Member States and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

BBMRI-ERIC was designed to improve the accessibility and interoperability of existing and newly established collections of human biological samples. These collections include comprehensive associated data on health status, nutrition, lifestyle, and environmental exposure of sample donors. In order to establish common quality criteria BBMRI-ERIC evaluates samples for compliance with the European Standards Organization (CEN) Technical Specifications (TS) for molecular in vitro diagnostic examinations – specifications for pre-examination processes, which have been published recently and refer to the ISO Norm 15189.

To exert full impact on society, biotech and pharmaceutical industry must have a possibility to access these resources. For this reason BBMRI-ERIC foresees special solutions to facilitate access for industry through Expert Centres that can be established as public-private-partnerships. Expert Centres perform the primary analysis of biological samples in a pre-competitive setting using latest technologies under highly standardized conditions. Data generation in Expert Centres will also lead to more efficient use of finite resources and improves sharing of the research data generated. Expert Centres will also lead to a repositioning of intellectual property and enhance competitiveness of industry including SME by facilitating collaboration.

15:50 – 16:10
Coffee Break
16:10 – 16:30


Dr. Abdelbaset Buhmeida, M.D., Ph.D. Professor & Senior Scientist Coordinator, Biobanking & Molecular Pathology Units, Biorepositories and Biospecimen & Cancer Genomics Research Programs, Centre of Excellence in Genomic Medicine Research (CEGMR), King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Cancer is a heterogeneous disease with different molecular characteristics associated with several variables such as the anatomical site and the level of genomic instability. Such tumour heterogeneity is even more deepened by several epigenomic aberrations affecting important tumour passenger and/or driver genes. Identification of such molecular signatures often carry a significant diagnostic and/or prognostic value that could affect the clinical management of cancer and ultimately the therapeutic outcome. Beside the intricacy of cancer at biological, molecular and functional genomic levels, additional biospecimen-related variables at biobanking pre-analytical phase were shown to further intensify this complexity. Although more than 170 pre-analytical variables were so far identified to significantly impact the biospecimen quality and therefore the outcomes of the studies for which they were used, suitable Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to tackle such variability sources have not been yet fully implemented in most of biobanks worldwide. In the OMICs era, the quantity and quality of biospecimens with fully annotated biodata are hence crucial to develop more effective and personalized theranostics that will enhance the overall wellbeing of patients.

Genome wide profiling of cancer has emerged since the completion of Human Genome Project-read (HGP-r) with the launching of subsequent extraordinary large-scale initiatives and consortiums (The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), Illuminating Druggable Genome (IDG), Human Proteome Project (HPP), Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) Program, etc.) marked by unprecedented collaborative approaches driven mainly by technology development, mutual trust, and ethics and data sharing. These efforts of dissecting and cataloging cancer along with matched normal tissues at molecular level allowed the development of diagnostic, prognostic (MammaPrint, MammoStrat, eXagenBC…) and/or predictive (Oncotype DX, Two-gene ratio, Celera Metastasis test…) multigene signatures helping in better evaluation of the patient’s survival and response to therapeutics. These incessant international efforts will enhance the OMICs platforms and hence our current understanding of the molecular pathophysiology of cancer in order to set up effective screening programs, develop personalized diagnostics and tailor individualized therapeutics. Additional integrative efforts of continuous education, competency assessments and awareness targeting the healthcare providers, medical students, policies’ makers and the public should be prioritized to speed up our transition toward precision oncology.

In the light of this international fight against cancer, this presentation will shed light on our research center’s experience with cancer profiling, biospecimen research and biobanking in Saudi Arabia to provide clinically actionable targets and increase the overall awareness towards biomedical cancer research. Ultimately and given the complexity of cancer as multifactorial, heterogeneous and personalized disease, thus the availability and sharing of the biomedical data along with more effective collaboration/teamwork of researchers, scientists, healthcare providers and stakeholders from different disciplines at both national, regional and international levels is highly recommended to footpath the way towards precision oncology in HEALTHCARE SYSTEM.

16:30 - 16:50


Dr. Khawla S. Al-Kuraya, Director, Research Centre at KFNCCC King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre Riyadh - Saudi Arabia

Objective: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a common cancer and a leading cause of cancer deaths. Previous studies have identified a number of key steps in the evolution of CRC but our knowledge of driver mutations in CRC remains incomplete. Recognizing the potential of studying different human populations to reveal novel insights in disease pathogenesis, we conducted genomic analysis of CRC in Saudi patients.

Design: In the discovery phase of the study, we conducted whole-genome sequencing of tumour and corresponding germline DNA in 27 CRC patients. In addition to known driver mutations, we identified three MED12 somatic mutations. In the replication phase, we employed a next-generation sequencing approach to capture and sequence MED12 and other candidate genes in a larger sample of 400 CRC patients and confirmed the enrichment for recurrent MED12 mutations.

Results: In order to gain insight into a plausible biological mechanism for the potential role of MED12 mutations in CRC, we studied CRC cell lines that differ substantially in the expression level of MED12, and found the latter to be correlated inversely with TGF-beta signalling and directly with apoptosis in response to chemotherapeutic agents. Importantly, these correlations were replicated when MED12 expression was experimentally manipulated.

Conclusion: Our data expand the recently described role of MED12 as a tumour suppressor in other cancers to include CRC, and suggest TGF-beta signalling as a potential mediator of this effect.

16:50 - 17:10


Dr. Susan J. Done, Associate Professor, Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and Medical Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Mortality from breast cancer is not due to primary tumours, but rather a failure to treat and control the growth of metastases. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are an intermediate stage between primary tumours and distant sites, and among them are the earliest detectable cells with metastatic abilities. There is varying concordance of prognostic targetable markers (ER, HER2, EGFR and PIK3CA mutations) between CTCs and the primary tumours they originate from. Aberrations previously thought to be private to CTCs, have been detected at low frequencies within the primary tumour itself, emphasizing the early programming of tumour cells to enter circulation. CTCs have prognostic value in both primary and metastatic breast cancer and the persistence of CTCs after chemotherapy has also been found to be associated with therapeutic resistance.

Previously, we performed high resolution copy number aberration analysis on CTCs from patients with breast cancer. We identified a profile of DNA regions that were recurrently gained across mammary CTCs. This profile is present across molecular subtypes and shows distinct features that are different from bulk extracted primary breast cancers. It contains 90 genomic regions that were gained, of which, chromosome 19p13 and 19q13 alterations are most prominent. Similar alterations were detected at low frequencies in the matched primary tumours of these patients (5-18%), as well as in an independent TCGA dataset of primary breast carcinomas (<3%). These results highlight occult, targetable changes that could be responsible for the preferential passage of tumour cells into circulation. We identified several groups of genes, which when gained within primary tumours were associated with both dissemination and distant metastases. Intratumoural heterogeneity measurements using diversity indices were performed for a small panel of CTC genes within primary breast cancer. A larger group of genes from the profile were additionally validated in an in vivo chick embryo model for metastasis to distinguish true driver events that are sufficient for dissemination but necessary for metastasis to occur.

We are now screening libraries of compounds to identify ones that have an impact on the genes that are driving metastasis in breast CTCs. Libraries include the Prestwick Chemical collection (n=1120) of FDA-approved drugs, the NIH clinical collection (n=727) of drugs with history in human clinical trials, kinase inhibitors (n=480), and a collection of ~3500 molecular entities affecting signalling pathways, metabolic events and biological processes including ~700 natural products with pharmacological properties (from Tocris Bioscience and Micro Source Discovery Systems). We have already obtained preliminary results from a screen that we carried out on the MDA-MB-468 cell line overexpressing two of the metastasis genes we have identified. From the 1120 compounds in the Prestwick collection we identified 41 and 40 compounds that killed tumour cells over expressing these genes (3.5 % hit rate). Understanding the actions of genes involved in early stages of metastasis and identifying drugs that can block them has the potential to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients.

17:10 - 17:20
17:20- 17:30
Closing remarks
Prof. Asmaa Al-Thani & Dr. Ajayeb Al Nabet
18:00 – 20:00
Visit to the Qatar Biobank (Per Invitation)

March 15th, 2017

08:00 - 08:45
Breakfast and Registration
08:45 – 12:20
08:45 - 9:00


Dr. Ajayeb Al Nabet - Chairperson of HMC Laboratory Medicine & Pathology,(DLMP) and QBB Board Member

Pharmaceutical focused researchers consider  human biospecimens fundamental in the development of new drugs tailored to the individual genetic background. Personalized medicine today is well accepted concept and will drastically change the way in which drugs will be developed, manufactured and administered to patients. The personalized medicine study approach does not only consider individual genetic background but also the epigenetic influence which dictates patient’s response to specific treatments. Both genetic and epigenetic results to be reproducible and productive necessitates the use of a high number of well collected, annotated and stored bio-materials (bio-fluids and solid tissues).  Tissue banks are an invaluable partner in this effort, as they can provide researchers with prospective or on-demand human tissues for personalized medicine research and targeted discovery efforts. Indeed” pharmacogenetics” is vital in the search for more effective treatments. Tissue specimens must be collected and prepared in formats that allows their efficient use and maximizes their utility. The tissue microarrays (TMAs) technology is paving its way in tissue biobanks being of paramount importance since allows the parsimonious use of tissue specimens. Indeed, TMAs should be constructed whenever possible from each trial as it is completed and reviewed. TMAs require at least two 1 mm cores from each FFTP tissue cassette placed in duplicate in a second TMA in order to avoid depleting the tissue.

Furthermore, the incorporation of a Digital Slide Imaging in the Tissue Bank, will facilitate and increase new opportunities for diagnostic since by implementing digital pathology objective diagnosis can be made and for research purposes one can enrich the tissue samples with whole slide and TMA HD images.

09:00 – 09:20


Prof. Peter Riegman - Head of Herasmus Tissue Bank - Herasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherland

Tissue banking forms one of the main pillars for accessing the promises of precision or personalized medicine. Especially where new targets need to be discovered for new therapies accompanied with the need for the discovery of new biomarkers. New diagnostic procedures need to be developed and recently there has been a shift to focus more on the FFPE than frozen samples due the success of NGS.

Currently the reproducibility of the research findings is a major issue, where sample quality with documentation of metadata on all steps before the sample is used for analyses becomes the theme to improve reproducibility. This is needed to stop costly failures in product development validation. CEN has already published technical standards that focus on the pre-analytical phase of sample collection. Digital pathology is an important tool in that process. It enables not only a smoother workflow with improved quality in a pathology department, but can contribute to disseminate the sample characteristics of the FFPE blocks before it is being used for research. The morphologic characteristics can be used in cohort selection. Sophisticated initiatives like BIOPOOL have even made the first steps opening up the opportunity to search on morphologic characteristics.

After cohort selection the link to the image can serve as documentation for the selected sample and can be used to show where additional samples have been taken for further analysis. The later step is crucial for the quality of the research. Picking of cores with a Tissue Micro Arrayer can benefit enormously from the digital pathology by the fact pathologist make annotations on the virtual microscopic slide where to take cores of interest from a block. This can be directly used as input for the picking of cores for the automated tissue array.

After the recipient blocks have been produced or the single cores have been analyzed the final analysis is completely documented in all its steps. Influences of morphology can be traced back for every sample taken from the original block. In addition with the sample metadata this is the tool of choice to get a first handle on reproducibility. Digitalization enables the easy documentation and access to the documentation to discover and avoid variations introduced in the sample.

09:20 - 09:40


Dr. Runjan Chetty, GI/Pancreas Pathologist University Health Network Laboratory Medicine Program Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology University of Toronto

The Princess Margaret Cancer Biobank has gone through several iterations and has finally morphed into its current form where it is a project-driven, site group specific endeavour.

Previously tissue from all cancer sites was biobanked with limited usage and great expense. With a tightening budget and a more focused approach, biobanking is now performed with a goal and purpose in mind.

The talk will trace the origins and beginnings of biobanking at PMH, culminating with the current status.

09:40 – 10:00


Dr. Dianne Chadwick: PhD - Manager, University Health Network BioBank, Toronto, Canada

The University Health Network (UHN) Biospecimen Sciences Program, or UHN Biobank, was initially established 15 years ago as a solid tissue repository in Pathology. The UHN Biobank has since evolved into a multi-disciplinary institutional program that processes, stores and distributes diverse patient solid tissue and liquid specimens to high impact research studies in oncology, cardiovascular disease, multi-organ transplant and infectious disease across UHN, Canada’s largest academic hospital system.

Specialized features of the UHN Biobank in support of personalized medicine will be highlighted. These include: Intraoperative Banking in which surgical tissue is processed and frozen din the operating room immediately following resection; Living Biobank of viable body fluids and solid tissues to study tumour infiltrating lymphocytes, and to establish patient-derived xenografts and organoids; Liquid Biopsies of blood plasma derivatives to investigate circulating tumour DNA and other biomarkers; Serial Sampling in which research biopsies, blood and urine are banked at various time points over the course of disease; Clinical Trials Support for research sample processing and storage; Experimental Pathology including cell enrichment by laser capture microdissection, tissue microarray construction, digital slide scanning and image analysis; and Biobank Informatics in which research samples are deidentified and tracked through processing storage and distribution to research studies.

The key role of the UHN Laboratory Medicine Program in providing subspecialty pathology expertise, infrastructure and support services to the UHN Biobank will be reviewed. In addition, biobanking governance, financial support, physical plant, staffing, protocols, database integration, access to research samples and quality assurance will be described. High impact research studies supported by the UHN BioBank will be presented. Concluding remarks will include successes, challenges and future plans for the UHN BioBank in support of personalized medicine research initiatives.

10:00 - 10:20


Dr Sameera Ezzat. Professor of Public Health, Chair of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine Department, Director of NLI-SSI Collaborative Research Centre - National Liver Institute, Menoufia University - Egypt

BACKGROUND: Established in 2012, the National Liver Institute-Sustainable Science Institute Collaborative research Centre (NLISSICRC) is a joint effort between the Egyptian National Liver Institute and the Sustainable Sciences Institute, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco with NGO status in Egypt. The aims of the NLISSICRC are: i) to develop a comprehensive Biorepository of biospecimens with annotated clinicopathological data that accelerates opportunities for innovative translational research focused on benefitting Egypt’s liver Healthcare; ii) to establish a Centre of Excellence that encourages Egyptian scientists to conduct high quality research in Egypt, including collaboratively with experienced foreign investigators; and iii) to provide, promote and facilitate training for Egyptian researchers with interest in liver diseases.

STRUCTURE: The NLISSICRC embodies a comprehensive molecular biology laboratory, sterile cell culture facility and ISBER-compliant1 Biorepository. All NLISSICRC research and biospecimen collection from patients with liver disease is performed in accordance with an NLI IRB-approved protocol. Informed consents are obtained from all patients enrolled in the Biorepository, which operates within ISBER best-practice guidelines. The scientific and bioethical infrastructure of the NLISSICRC Biorepository was modelled on the El Hefni Liver Biorepository at California Pacific Medical Centre in San Francisco.

  • An expanding single-time collection of peripheral blood DNA, RNA, serum and plasma from >3000 hepatitis C and hepatocellular carcinoma patients with annotation of accurate clinical data with each sample.
  • Collecting fresh frozen tissue for more than 100 subjects and matching peripheral blood on surgically resected HCC.
  • Five early career researchers have been trained abroad to conduct molecular biology and immunogenetic techniques and on different bionbank prosedures.
  • Many research projects are ongoing or published.
  • ≥5,000 participants with longitudinally biobanked specimens.
  • Primary cultures and cell lines from neoplastic and non-neoplastic liver diseases as a foundation for preclinical drug screening and molecular and cell biology studies.
  • Clinical trial support through biospecimen collection and banking.
  • Local workshops on bench-to-bedside translational liver research, molecular biology, immunology, epidemiology and biostatistics.
  • Local and online manuscript and grant writing workshops.
  • Grant applications (including international) and publications in peer-reviewed journals.
10:20 - 10:40
Coffee Break
10:40 - 11:00


Dr. Marianne K. Henderson, Senior Advisor for Division Resources, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics and Senior Advisor on Biobanking, Centre for Global Health of the U.S. NCI

The US National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) conducts population-based and interdisciplinary research to discover the genetic and environmental determinants of cancer. Many DCEG studies are large, multi-institutional, and long-term which have national and international study sites and the majority include the collection of biospecimens from research participants. The NCI Central Repository stores nearly 15 million biological specimens, including over 122 different specimen types, and DCEG’s collection is among the largest specimen collection at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The challenges and opportunities of multi-site international collections to benefit public health are great. Updates on planning for new collections, technological advances and quality control measures at the Repository, as well as examples of successful use of the collections will be highlighted.

11:00 - 11:20


Dr Manuel Morente, MD PhD - Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) Spanish National Biobank Network coordinator, Madrid, Spain

We are living in the networks era: computer networks, biology networks, communication and broadcast networks, social networks, etc. "Points" have evolved to "clouds".

We could cite numerous reasons for such networking development including information’s technologies development, globalization, and others, but possibly the main cause is the need for greater effectiveness to meet the current challenges. The true foundation of network development is the perception that in networking “one plus one is more than two” and this paradox is, at the same time, the proof of concept of a real network: a network should be more effective than sum of its isolated elements.

The field of scientific research is not immune to this networking trend. On the contrary, it is the subject of a remarkable cooperative development.

Current biomedical research has three main characteristics:

  • The capacity for large-scale studies in genomics and proteomics,
  • The high sensitivity of the current biotechnology tools, and
  • The need and opportunity of transfer from basic research to clinical activity.

All these three characteristics are dependent of especially procured tissues: Large-scale molecular studies need large numbers of cases to identify new parameters of clinical value, highly sensitive techniques require appropriately handled samples, and the translational research needs homogeneous tissue-sampling protocols avoiding the bias of multicenter studies. All these three requirements made necessary the cooperation and common compromise of institutions moving from isolated and unconnected biobanks to cooperative networks.

Isolated biobanks are useful for deal concrete goals and projects, but not for fulfill the actual complexity of translational research as base for a future more personalized Medicine. They have been using vertical thinking to try to solve horizontal problems, and narrow capabilities and designs to deal wider scope objectives.

The Spanish National Biobank Network ( is an initiative of the Spanish National Institute of Health (ISCIII), which focuses their efforts on managing human samples as a platform of public service for biomedical research.

This initiative, created in 2010, comes in to consolidate and recognize a previous cooperative work in hospital-based biobanks developed in Spain over the previous decade, making possible a greater degree of integration, harmonization and public service, adding value to the whole Spanish Biobank System in a coordinate manner.

The Network pretends to be a meeting point for these biobanks in order to facilitate an increase in quality and homogeneity in the services they provide, facilitating access of biological samples of human origin and their associated data to the scientific community with the best quality standards and the assurance of donor rights according to the actual legal framework.

The Spanish National Biobank Network is managed from a coordination office based on the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO)

11:20 - 11:40


Dr. Iman Gouda Farahat, Professor, Department of Pathology, National Cancer Institute, at Cairo University

The ENCI biobank received the award of Centres of Excellence Grant, funded from the Egyptian Science and Technology Development Fund (STDF) of the Ministry of State for Scientific Research (2013). ENCI biobank is affiliated to National Cancer Institute (NCI), Cairo University which is the biggest cancer foundation in Egypt.

The Goals for biobank establishment were to:

  1. Standardize collection of biological samples, transport of the samples, and handling and storage of samples at the NCI.
  2. Promote young researchers through access to the biological material in the Biobank and the linked clinical data.
  3. Facilitate conduction of data-supported large scale studies on cancer detection, diagnosis and therapy.
  4. Enhance collaboration of different research centres, universities and institutes for achieving a national goal for the best of cancer patients.

In the first stage (2016), ENCI biobank started collecting samples from newly diagnosed breast cancer patients including tissue as well as blood/plasma/serum samples for the sake of identification of breast cancer stem cells in the context of breast cancer molecular classes. Later on, ENCI biobank will collect samples from other cancer groups as well. The biobank will start as a hospital-based medium-sized biobank aiming to grow into a large one within the next five years. Samples of high quality, highly annotated, consented, and linked to patient data are collected and stored in a structured way that respects the individuals and maintains privacy and confidentiality. Governance policies are in place to guide the biobank's accrual, management and release of bio specimens. The biobank manager and supporting staff are overseen by the management board with clear roles and responsibilities. The institutional Review Board reviews the ethical guidelines and Informed Consent Form to assure autonomy, privacy and confidentiality in view of the cultural background and in compliance with relevant legislative requirements.

Established bio specimen collection procedures are in place to minimize pre-analytical variables and minimize bio specimen desiccation, degradation, risk of cross-contamination. All biobank personnel have received training on relevant Standard Operating Procedures for handling bio specimens. Security measures are in place to safeguard bio specimens and data in biobank facility. Biobanking best practices guidelines are under implementation to ensure the protection of participants, optimize the collection procedures, and allow research on specimens from different cohorts.

Supporting laboratories include molecular biology lab and Histopathology lab to serve the needs of biomedical researchers at NCI and other centres collaborating in research studies. Histopathology Laboratory provides facilities for frozen section lab, grossing station, processing station, cytology lab, and molecular pathology lab. The Clinical pathology laboratory provides chemical pathology lab, bacteriology lab, and immunology and haematology lab.

Challenges facing the development of Egyptian Biobanks include multiple dispersed data sources, lack of national guidelines, information bottlenecks, and lack of common language. Sustainability of developing biobanks requires quality and auditing measures, data sharing (according to standard policy guidelines), networking, conferences, and published materials. Fundraising is essential for maintenance of the existing infrastructure and training of human resources.

11:40 – 12:00
12:00 – 13:00
Networking Lunch
13:00 – 15:30
13:00 – 13:20


Dr. Nahla AfifiActing Director Qatar Biobank for Medical Research

Qatar Biobank is a large-scale, long term medical research initiative for the population of Qatar, which over the next few years aims to recruit 60,000 men and women Qatari nationals and long-term residents (>15 years residence) aged ≥18 years, and to follow up these same individuals over the long term to record any subsequent health conditions. At the baseline recruitment visit, extensive clinical phenotypic information is collected from each participant. Participants are referred when an abnormal out of range clinical measurement is recorded to the ambulatory care clinic at Hamad Medical Hospital or their own doctor. During the pilot phase Sept 2013-October 2016, 2248 of the 4893 participants (45.94%) were clinically referred, 70.38 % of them were new cases and 29.62% were known cases. Most of these referrals were caused by out of range values on related tests for abnormal bone density 46.5 %, dyslipidemia 39.2%, diabetes 26.7% and hypertension 11.6%.

Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes mellitus are emerging as a major health problems and are now the major cause of death and disability in Qatar accounting for 55% of years of life lost in the country in 2008 (WHO, 2011b). The population in Qatar is also experiencing a nutrition transition, characterized by replacement of traditional diets with diets higher in fat and refined and processed foods, and a decrease in the levels of physical activity. Analysis of the pilot phase data indicates that In addition to the primary goal of Qatar Biobank to collect information and samples as a platform to empower research in Qatar, it also plays an important role of early identification and prompt treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases (diabetes, obesity and CV) which will reduce the future burden in health sector.

13:20 – 13:40


Dr. Maher A. Sughayer - Director of King Hussein Cancer Center ( KHCCBIO), Jordan, Amman

The King Hussein Cancer Center, a leading comprehensive cancer care institution in the Middle East took a strategic decision to establish a cancer tissue biorepository for Jordan. The project named KHCCBO started towards the end of 2011 and was ready to commence its operations in 2014. It was supported by a grant from the European Union under the funding program named Frame work program 7 (FP7). European partners from Ireland and Switzerland were involved in the project establishment since the project was based on the principle of international cooperative initiatives of the European Union.

The appropriate personnel were hired which included a junior pathologist, quality officer, document controller and technologists. The project was established to be ISO compliant. Therefore from day one all aspects of the biobanking process were developed in compliance with the ISO accreditation principles. In addition the KHCCBIO being under the directorship of the chair of the department of pathology which is accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) applies not only the standards of ISO but also the general and specific laboratory quality aspects according to CAP. Training of personnel was carried out in two phases. A phase in Ireland and another in Jordan onsite. The training covered all aspects the biobanking processes from consenting patients to freezing and storage of tissue through collection and transportation. The standard operation procedures were all developed to be ISO compliant in addition to being ethically cleared especially those related to consenting, recruitment of tissue donors, return of results, transfer of tissues, and the general disposition of the tissue specimens and their derivatives. This ethical clearing was conducted by the institutional review board of KHCC and was approved by the research ethics committee of the international partners. So far the most important challenge in the operations of KHCCBIO is sustainability after the grant money was consumed. In the establishment phase KHCC paid for all the equipment purchased but the salaries of the employees were partially covered by the grant. Now the running cost including salaries are totally covered intramurally by KHCC itself. This imposes difficulties and challenges on the biobank leading us to look for other sources of funding to sustain its operations.

13:40 – 14:00


Prof. Mostafa Abolfotouh - Head of Biobanking Section at King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC), and a professor at King Saud bin-Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), Ministry of National Guard, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Abstract: Saudi National BIobanking

Saudi Biobanking project is a large-scale prospective study of the combined effects of genes, environment and lifestyle on common diseases of adult life, with nested case-control studies within the cohort. Its goal is to increase the quality of patient care and accelerate the impact of research on such care. This study is concerned with two biobanking groups:

  1. Population-based study group, with an expected sample of 100,000 people of all ages, and
  2. Disease-specific biobanking group of 100,000 of patients with certain common diseases such as; cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, chronic renal impairment/failure and stroke will be allocated from the specialized clinics. Disease registries are being conducted for these conditions under study. Saudi Biobanking project was initiated and is conducted by King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC), King Saud bin-Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), and funded by the Ministry of National Guard-Health Affairs (MNGHA) and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

The study is in the form an interview to collect data on lifestyles, quality of life and co-morbidities, followed by various anthropometric, biochemical and physiological investigations. Annual examinations will be conducted in the surviving original cohort to obtain information on physical activity, blood pressure, diet, body weight, occupational history, psychosocial factors and personal habits such as smoking. Information about any diseases which develop during the follow-up period is collected via MNGHA-electronic medical records. Subjects are targeted for fluid and solid body tissue samples, while DNA/RNA capacity 1.8 million matrix tubes for genetic diseases seen in day to day clinical practice. A complete automated DNA banking that carries out a full robotic extraction of DNA from blood, followed by banking the samples at -20C, is applied. Retrieving the sample(s) is also auto-programmed by the LIMS system. Information about any diseases which develop during the follow-up period will be collected via the MNG-HA electronic medical records.

Endpoints of this project include coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, congestive heart failure and peripheral arterial disease. Analysis of the genetic and non-genetic data will be done to cover areas such as the lifetime risk coronary heart disease, prevalence and determinates of selected conditions. An archivist is allocated to ensure the protection of data and supervise the biobank. Data will be managed using Dendrite and Lab Vantage softwares. Following two successful pilot studies, the 3rd phase of Saudi national Biobanking has been launched upon a school cohort of 1800 secondary students of both sexes, at schools affiliated to the MNG-HA.

14:00 – 14:20


Dr. Hinda Daggag - Genetics Project Specialist at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), Abu Dhabi - UAE

Imperial College London Diabetes Centre Repository is a research tissue bank for the storage and management of biological samples linked to clinical data, established in 2013 and led by and integrated into Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Abu Dhabi. The integration with Imperial College London Diabetes Centre provides important information on the participants, making Imperial College London Diabetes Centre Repository a valuable resource to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of illnesses and to promote health throughout society. ICLDC Repository undoubtedly represents a uniquely rich resource for investigating the relevance of a wide range of exposures to various health-related outcomes.

Studying the genetic variation of the UAE population will enable the individualization of healthcare and contribute to disease identification, tailoring therapies and disease management strategies specific for this region. More specifically, research conducted using ICLDC Repository genetic samples will facilitate the study of genetic variation that influence individual response to drugs.

ICLDC Repository, the first research tissue bank in the emirate of Abu Dhabi approved by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, has now been operational for 2.5 years and is actively recruiting participants. With the growth of the repository over the past few years, we are hoping to grow the capacity and improve the functionality of the storage facilities alongside the growth of Imperial College London Diabetes Centre to enable expansion of the recruitment drive for in years to come.

14:20 – 14:40


Dr Maimuna Mendy - Head, Laboratory Services and Biobank Group, IARC Lyon, France

Biobanks are well established in High Income Countries (HIC) and are rapidly emerging in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC). Surveys among biobanks operating in a LMIC setting indicate that limited resources and short term funding tied to specific projects threaten the sustainability of the biobanks. Fit-for-purpose biobanks targeting major societal challenges such as HIV and Malaria provide an excellent basis for integrating biobanks with the available research communities in LMIC regions. But to become sustainable for the future and to contribute to the landscape of precision medicine it is important that biobanks become an integrated part of local research communities.

LMIC regions. But to become sustainable for the future and to contribute to the landscape of precision medicine it is important that biobanks become an integrated part of local research communities.

To achieve this, the cost of operating biobanks must be lowered, templates and regulatory frameworks must be developed to support local ethics committees and researchers must be given the opportunity to build experience in successfully operating biobank based research projects.

In response to this need, BCNet was established in 2013 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in close collaboration with a number of international organizations to address the shortfall of biological samples and data available for research within the next decade. This is being done by supporting training activities, providing solutions for newly established facilities and biobanks that require upgrading to support high quality research.

The B3Africa consortium in an EU-H2020 Funded project that was set up to support biobank based research by creating a cost efficient Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) for developing biobanks and also contribute to the training and capacity building in the local research community. The technical platform called the eB3Kit is open source and consists of a LIMS and a bioinformatics module that allow researchers to take control over the analysis of their own data.

Along with the technical and training platforms the consortium will provide support for the associated infrastructures necessary to regulate the ethical and legal implications of biobank based research.

14:40 – 15:40
Open Discussion:
15:40 - 15:50
Closing remarks
18:30 - 21:30
GALA DINNER ( Per Invitation)



You are being invited to take part in Qatar Biobank, Qatar’s long-term medical health initiative for Qatar’s population. To help you decide whether to contribute, here is some information on Qatar Biobank and what taking part involves.


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Qatar Biobank will make it possible for scientists to conduct research to address some of the greatest health challenges facing Qatar and the region, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.


Qatar Foundation Ministry of Public Health
Hamad Medical Corporation


Quality Management Information Security Management