Middle East and Balkans Awaken to Welcome Genomics

Below is a guest post from Afşar Akal, Healthcare Enterprise Solution Sales for Intel in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, on the upcoming GenoFuture’14 event next week in Istanbul.

Let’s face it: the bulk of IT spending related to life-sciences will take place outside the Middle East and Balkans. It is no surprise that unless you ask for it (and pay a decent sum) no country in the region registers on the pivot table radar that breaks down worldwide spending projections. It is simply accounted under the ‘rest of the world’ line. This, however, should not mean the region is fast asleep while the rest of the world has already embraced disruptive innovations in life-sciences such as genomic sequencing and clinical analytics.

Qatar announced three years ago it was going to sequence all of the Qatari population’s human genomes and formed a bio-bank in collaboration with Imperial College (London) while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently announced a similar mapping exercise to the tune of 100,000 genomes in partnership with Life Technologies.

Another spotlight is Turkey, where Izmir, the third largest city located in the West coast, has started the countdown to the opening of the Turkish Genome Institute. Why not locate this facility in the capital city of Ankara or the trade capital of Istanbul? Izmir’s regional development agency, which supports the city’s economic development efforts, explains at IZKA’s web site that healthcare is a strategic sector for attracting local and overseas investment. This covers a vast array of industry and services that include pharmaceutical production, research and development in new drug discoveries, biomedical sciences, clinical trial outsourcing, medical equipment, and on and on. So why not set a Genomic Institute in the same locale to lead the way?

The Institute’s interim director, Dr Mehmet Ozturk, welcomed Intel’s invitation to speak at the GenoFuture’14 event, an inaugural international forum to discuss Innovations in life sciences by bringing clinical geneticists and IT industry from the Middle East and Balkans together.

Intel’s Worldwide Medical Director, Dr. Mark Blatt, and Director of Life Sciences Research Ketan Paranjape, will also take center stage to explain why Big Data in genomics and clinical analytics matters for Intel and how we strive to bring full computational, storage, networking and latest software technologies from behind cold roomed data centers to the bench-top where consumers (that is patients) can benefit.

I recommend that you keep an eye on the Middle East and the region’s role in genomic and life-science research and its application to personalized medicine. The region is energized thanks to high oil prices and thankfully the governments are putting these funds to good use.

What questions do you have?