Amid delays due to a thick blanket of fog, a cameo appearance by Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt and the presence of distinguished Nobel Laureates, the 2nd International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy started at the Dubai Men’s College today.
The conference, billed as the premier health science conference of the region, saw more than 700 of the world’s leading scientists, researchers, pharmacologists and academics discuss the latest global breakthroughs in drug discovery and therapeutic research.
Before the delegates immersed themselves in a variety of health and drug topics they listened to the inspirational inaugurating speech by H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology.
H.E. Sheikh Nahayan humbly declared that he was making “general remarks of a layman interested in the subject” of drugs and medicine. Here is His Excellency’s speech in its entirety, as the opening address to delegates at the 2nd International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy.
Good morning, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Welcome to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. We are honored that so many of you have joined us for this 2nd International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy. It is a tribute to the success of the First conference that an even larger number of distinguished teachers, researchers, clinicians, and pharmaceutical industry leaders from around the world have come to Dubai to share with colleagues some of the amazing developments in drug discovery and therapeutics.
I welcome all of you. I especially welcome the large group of Nobel laureates who join us today. Your achievements have set high standards for research and practice in various medical fields and have created pathways and provided inspiration for many to follow. To all of you, I express my appreciation for the ground-breaking work that you have done, and continue to do, to improve the standards of health for all citizens of the world.
And to the conference organizers, Eureka Science and the Higher Colleges of Technology, I am so appreciative of your work in building the forward-looking program for this conference. I am confident that the scope of the conference will be of great benefit to bio-medical professionals here as well as around the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
For those of you who are returning to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, we welcome you back and extend the Arab hospitality that you found in your earlier visits. To those of you who are here for your first visit, I hope that you will find some time to discover and enjoy our rich culture and traditions, and to explore some of the astonishing development projects for which our country has received global attention.
Since its founding nearly forty years ago, the United Arab Emirates has steadily pursued the goal of becoming one of the leading nations of the world. Under the guidance of The President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, and with the support of the Vice President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the UAE has in its short history become a nation known for bold and forward-looking initiatives and actions. We are a country that promotes creativity and values innovation a country committed to building a knowledge society where ideas drive economic success and help affect positive change.
And in the context of this conference, the improvement of the health of our citizens is one of our nation’s highest priorities. I hope that you will be able to see examples of our emphasis on health care through a visit to our exceptional hospitals and healthcare facilities or to the College of Medicine at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain which is striving to become the leader in health care education and training in the region.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today, too many of our world’s citizens are faced with problems of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and communicable and infectious diseases. We know that many of these problems are caused by poverty, poor eating habits, lack of clean water and healthy foods, and by the near instantaneous transfer of infected persons to distant ports. Others may be genetically related. In these and other medical areas, the discovery of better drugs with fewer undesirable side effects is essential to improving the quality of health around the globe.
At the same time, great concern has been expressed over the last decade about the decreasing number of new drugs approved for clinical use. Great concern has also been expressed about the apparent delay in translating clinical discoveries into available cures. It seems that the traditional Research and Development model for development of new drugs is unlikely to be sustainable. Instead, radically different business models of R&D must be developed, tested, and implemented. In these changing times, failure to develop new R & D models poses a grave threat to the future of the pharmaceutical industry and, consequently, to world health.
Friends and colleagues, you have a special opportunity in this conference to discuss all of these important issues and more. It is neither appropriate for me, nor do I consider myself qualified to go into any details regarding the technical aspects of your work on drug design and discovery.
I will, however, take this opportunity to make some general remarks as a layman who is interested in the subject:
First, for centuries, the art of medicine has made steady advances in the methods of diagnosis and treatment of disease. These advances involve the patient expressing concerns about aches and pains to the physician, or the physician discovering symptoms through external examination and then prescribing treatment. Fortunately, in the last century, advances in technology such as X-ray and MRI have made possible looking “inside the patient” as a means of enhancing diagnosis. But no matter how powerful the machines, the basic art of medicine requires that physicians diagnose the problem and prescribe therapeutic treatment. It is critical, therefore, that we encourage close partnerships between drug companies, physicians, bio-medical engineers, hospitals, and colleges of medicine, in order to insure the development and delivery of new drugs and medical treatments. It is a critical challenge for you who work in the field, then, to pursue strategies to ensure that these partnerships are strong and viable.
Second, until recently, to find an appropriate drug, health professionals had to undergo a seemingly endless process of testing millions of natural and synthetic compounds to identify those few that worked.
This long, laborious, and expensive process in the practice of medicine may be nearing an end. The drug discovery process has grown more sophisticated and has increasingly become an information-based science. Rapid advances in bio-informatics, huge leaps in computer processing power, and better understanding of the role of molecular structure in the fight against disease, are transforming the process of drug design and discovery. Increasingly, new drugs currently in clinical trials are less likely to use the “one-treatment fits all” approach. Instead, they are carefully targeted to the molecular fingerprints of specific diseases. Medicine is moving from the traditional assumption that drugs and diseases work the same way in all human beings to customizing them at the individual level. If successful, the results of these information-based biomedical approaches should produce a new age of medical therapy through early diagnosis and customized drug treatments.
Third, I am particularly interested in the promise of new technologies in the field of drug design and development. Nanotechnology, for example, is an exciting and promising new technology that has the potential for far reaching impact upon biomedical science and its fields of biology, pharmacological chemistry, drug discovery, and medical technology. The discipline has already yielded remarkable discoveries that have been used for drug delivery and diagnostic purposes. Nanotechnology, by its very nature, requires a multidisciplinary approach involving scientists, engineers and physicians. This is the kind of collaborative work that, I believe, will become a hallmark of our efforts to develop the new drugs of the future.
Fourth, drug design and discovery is a global issue, and nations all over the world share the same challenges and concerns that surround this important topic. The amazing advances that those of you here today, along with colleagues around the world, have developed and implemented hold extraordinary promise for improvement of health and the quality of life for our entire planet. It is critical that we promote regional and international cooperation to insure that you have the means to do your work, and that we, and indeed, the world will be the beneficiaries of your efforts and accomplishments.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
This conference highlights the importance of your innovation to the future of humankind and expresses our strong belief that all of you, working together, represent the highest and best ideals of a global society that measures its success by the quality of life of its citizens.
I wish for you a successful conference. I look forward to following the impact of your deliberations upon world health. We will continue to work with you after the conference to explore ways to disseminate the creative ideas that are expressed here. We will undertake this commitment in the spirit of friendship and cooperation so evident here today.
Thank you, and again welcome.