Hundreds of scientists from across the country and around the world gathered at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q) to attend the Annual Research Retreat hosted by the school.

WCM-Q Research Retreat 2018The yearly event is an opportunity to review the college’s biomedical research in collaboration with local stakeholders over the previous 12 months, hear about upcoming studies and discuss new developments in the realm of biomedical research.

The event was officially opened by Dr Khaled Machaca, Associate Dean for Research at WCM-Q, who gave delegates a brief history of the college’s biomedical research programme, under the sponsorship of Qatar Foundation.

Over 800 publications have been published by WCM-Q scientists since its launch nine years ago, garnering over 16,000 citations. Dr Machaca said the college was involved in several high-profile national collaborations – including with Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar BioBank, Qatar Genome Project and Sidra Medicine  – and there were new challenges ahead.

How do we translate this research into improved healthcare with an economic impact, while maintaining our basic research discovery plan? A possible solution could be a national collaborative approach towards this issue where the government, funding bodies and research institutes work together.’

The audience also heard from Dr Robert Ruffolo, retired president of research and development for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in the US. His talk focused on the pharmaceutical industry. One striking point he made is the need for a different business model for the global pharmaceutical industry, as the current one, he said, is unsustainable.

Dr Ruffolo explained that the pharmaceutical industry is by far the primary source of new drugs across the world and that because of the huge costs involved in bringing a drug to the market and the length of time involved – which can be as long as 16 years – companies have to take huge risks; if a drug falls at the final hurdle then vast amounts of time and money are wasted.

But major pharmaceutical companies are vital for ensuring that new drugs come to the market. By way of comparison, Dr Ruffolo said his former company had a $4 billion biomedical research and development budget while the United Kingdom only has a $1 billion annual budget. He argued for a model of much closer collaborative ties between universities like WCM-Q, biotechnology companies and ‘big pharma’ to better advance drug development in the future.

The Annual Research Retreat was also an opportunity for WCM-Q scientists to showcase their work to the scientific community, and eight of the senior researchers gave short presentations of their studies. The highlight of the event, though, was the poster presentations, when 120 of the researchers presented their work in poster form. These were judged by team of experts from WCM-Q and partner institutions.

For more information about the event, visit the WCM-Q website at qatar-weill.cornell.edu.