The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) is taking part in a new study that will investigate ways to develop religious and culturally sensitive approaches and perspectives for public engagement within the fields of genomics and Islamic biomedical ethics.

The study will be led by Dr Mohammed Ghaly, WISH forum chair on Genomics in 2016. He is also a professor of Islam and biomedical ethics at the Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). Dr Ghaly will be working with Dr Walid Qoronfleh, Director of Research and Policy at WISH, along with experts from Qatar and Canada.

Genomics involves the study of the complete set of genes found within all living things, including humans, and their functions. It is heavily reliant on public engagement. The project, ‘Genomics, Islamic Bioethics and Public Engagement: Towards Bridging the Knowledge Gaps’, aims to identify areas of ethical concern to Muslims who participate in genomic studies. It also strives to offer solutions from an Islamic perspective.

The innovative research project, supported by a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund, is intended to be of benefit to the work being done by the Qatar Genome Programme (QGP). QGP was initiated by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, during WISH 2013.  It aims to map the genome of the Qatari population in order to support the development of personalised healthcare in Qatar.

Upon completion of the study, research findings will be available on various interactive platforms and communicated at public events in English and Arabic. The findings will also be used to create guidelines designed to influence public policy in the region and beyond.

Dr Mohammed Ghaly said that the research aims to help bridge the knowledge gaps that exist between scientists working in genomics, Islamic religious scholars and the general public, in a way that is beneficial for all stakeholders.

I am looking forward to working closely with colleagues in Qatar, as well as abroad, to identify the barriers of understanding that currently exist and to play a part in breaking them down.

Genomics is the study of a person’s genes and their interaction with each other and the environment, and this has many applications in medicine. Increasingly, the technology is being used clinically to inform patient care as part of genomics medicine. There is currently a lack of public understanding of genomics from an Islamic perspective. The public plays a vital role in genomic research, so, without such understanding, scientists are limited in the work they can undertake in a field of science that has the potential to greatly benefit society.’

In addition to Dr Ghaly and Dr Qoronfleh, the international research team will be joined by:

  • Qatar Biomedical Research Institute Scientist Farah Zahir 
  • Sidra’s Dr Khalid Fakhro, Principal Investigator in Translational Medicine
  • Qatar University Assistant Professor Hanan Abdul Rahim
  • McGill University Centre of Genomics and Policy Executive Director Ma’n Zawati
  • University of Ottawa Associate Professor Salah Basalamah

Additional researchers will join the team as the project develops.

WISH, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), has an ongoing interest in this field, which previously led to the publishing of a report that was presented at WISH 2016 in Doha.

In April 2017, WISH partnered with CILE and the London-based Islamic Institute for Development and Research (IIDR) to create a two-day training programme that explored Islamic biomedical ethics, addressing ethical questions relating to Islam that has arisen as a result of the rapid scientific advancements in biomedicine in recent years.

Topics discussed included stem cell research, Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and gamete donation, milk banks, organ transplantation, ethical management of incidental findings, and euthanasia. All topics were addressed in detail from an Islamic perspective.

The WISH 2016 report ‘Genomics in the Gulf Region and Islamic Ethics’ is available through this link