● Workshops Summary – 6th Annual Forum for Medical Research

The 6th Annual Forum for Medical Research provided participants with the opportunity to attend four different parallel workshops covering diverse research topics.  Below are summaries from each of the workshops:

“Towards Personalized and Precision Medicine for Diabetes and Cancer”

Dr. Abdelali Haoudi (KAIMRC, KSA) gave introductory remarks and highlighted the objectives of the workshop aiming at providing specific recommendations that will help develop a roadmap for R&D programs in diabetes and cancer.

Dr. Ahmed Alaskar (KAIMRC, KSA) gave an opening presentation entitled: “Cancer Research as a strategic Program for KAIMRC” highlighting both the current incidence of cancer in KSA and the region as well as the new developments regarding KAIMRC strategy and R&D focus areas.

In 2015, KAIMRC has embarked into a new phase of its development by developing a new strategy and relocating its laboratories and teams to a new dedicated research building. With KAIMRC new strategy in place, the overall direction of the center has been reassessed including its capabilities and capacities, in order to bring more focus to the R&D programs and to the center’s overall activities. Both cancer and diabetes are among the diseases focus areas as R&D priorities for KAIMRC.

Dr. Farzin Farzaneh (King’s College London, UK) presentation’s entitled “Personalized immune therapy of cancer”: from broad therapies for the induction of patient specific responses, to completely individualized therapeutic strategies. In his presentation, Dr. Farzaneh illustrated with few specific examples from ongoing projects several approaches to tackling cancer towards the development of personalized medicine for cancer. A broad range of tumour-associated antigens provide specific targets for the immune therapy of cancer. These include antigens expressed by oncogenic viral vectors such as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and others. Recent data has demonstrated the presence of additional and entirely patient specific mutations that occur selectively in the tumour tissues. Both the common tumour associated antigens and the novel antigens present in individual tumours provide an array of potential targets for the immune mediated eradication of cancer.

 Dr. Hasan Mukhtar (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA) presentation’s entitled: “PERSONALIZED COCKTAIL OF NATURAL PRODUCTS FOR PREVENTION OF CANCER”. In his presentation, Dr. Mukhtar gave an overview on how diet and life style could contribute to significant changes of health status and development of several diseases. Epidemiological studies and geographical observations suggest that consumption of many dietary products is associated with reduced risk for the development of cancer. Despite of this appreciation, no generalized recommendation for cancer prevention through any natural agent has yet been made. One major reason for this is that process of cancer develop- ment termed carcinogenesis is a multistep and multistage process that takes many years and involves aberrations in many normal cellular pathways.

Dr. Ali Al Qarni (KAIMRC, KSA) in his presentation entitled: “The Challenges of Diabetes” has given an overview about current incidence of diabetes in KSA and the gulf region as well as some highlights from ongoing clinical research studies on diabetes. Diabetes is a leading cause of end stage renal disease, blindness, cardiovascular disease and lower limb amputation, in addition to many other devastating complications. Life expectancy of people with diabetes is reduced by up to 10 years compared to those who do not have diabetes.

Dr. Philippe Froguel (Imperial College London, UK and CNRS- Lille University-Pasteur Institute, France) presentation’s entitled: “From basic to translational research: how to pave the road towards precision diabetes and cancer medicine” has shed light on genetic and genomic studies of diabetes as well as links between diabetes and cancer. Diabetes and cancer are both multifactorial diseases with strong genetic basis. Both are heterogeneous diseases having various etiologies and thus that need personalized diagnosis and treatments. Next Generation Sequencing has revolutionized theranostics (i.e. the molecular analysis of the causes of diseases) and provides clues for customized more efficient treatments

Dr. Francesco Rubino (King’s College London, UK) presentation’s entitled “metabolic surgery: a new way to treat and look at diabetes” has illustrated a number of approaches to metabolic surgery. Surgical manipulations of anatomy can play a major role in advancing knowledge about physiology and disease. A surgical operation may once again provide a lead for important discoveries in diabetes research. In fact, gastrointestinal operations used for the treatment of severe obesity (bariatric/metabolic surgery) have shown to induce major and sustained improvement of type 2 diabetes.

The workshop included also two panel discussions to come up with recommendations for roadmap for R&D programs for cancer and diabetes.


“How to Publish and Rigor and Discipline in Research”

The workshop commenced with Dr. Boudjelal, Head of KAIMRC’s Core Facilities and Research Platforms, requesting additional clarification in the reasoning for attending the lecture in order to best tailor the workshop according to the needs and expectations of the audience.  Most of the attendees expressed their interest in how to conduct research work. Dr. Boudjelal then shed light on the abilities that are required to write coherently when crafting a publication, as the data should be reproducible by independent researchers when identical published procedures are followed. Next, he expressed the importance for scientific work to be credible. Dr. Boudjelal started that proper planning first is the key challenge in starting any research. Also applying all the tools to be rigor and disciplined in research in important to observe when conducting the research. Dr Boudjelal made distinctive difference between rigor that relate to the process and discipline the behaviour. Keeping records of all data and show the data as it is important rather than show only data that fit the person conclusion.

The second part of the workshop was given by Dr. Sheraz Gul from Fraunthofer Institute. He instilled the process of searching for and obtaining relevant publications and literature for additional background on the research topic. He also mentioned appropriate measures for avoiding articles that are irrelevant or untrusted. Best practices in devising experimental plans were detailed with emphasis on how the data is analyzed, how conclusions are drawn, how to disseminate these concepts to the wider scientific community, and how to publish a peer-reviewed paper. Then, Dr. Gul explained how to attract funding and how to ensure there is a calculated progression throughout a researcher’s career in terms of the quality and quantity of publications. Accordingly, writing scientific papers is a necessary aspect of scientific training, but poor communication will not allow for effective publications, especially in well-known, international journals. Editors and reviewers will be put off by confusing, poorly constructed, or poorly written papers, even when the data is of scientific interest. The best scientific papers show a balance between brevity, clarity, organization and style. Scientific writing must be formal in nature of language and also, simultaneously, must be conveyed in an exciting manner that outlines results.

Additionally, Dr. Boudjelal and Dr. Gul mentioned strategies for training scientists to communicate effectively by writing convincing manuscripts deserving of publication. Although peer-reviewed journals vary in style, there is a common layout to be followed. The workshop concluded with a discussion on the techniques required to write a scientific manuscript in relation to the title, abstract, introduction, methods and the results and discussion.

“Patents, Innovations and Intellectual Property Registration at MNG-HA”

Dr. Ali Al Muntashri has mentioned that the Innovation and Technology Transfer Management Office (ITTMO) started three years ago. The main purpose is to protect and manage the Intellectual property and Patents for NGHA employees and that includes King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC). The center assigned local and international lawyers to support in the process of acquisition and protection of patents.

The concept of establishing ITTMO is to contribute and enhance the cognitive knowledge where those inventions can be manufactured and promoted for markets globally and this would be a good source of income to Saudi Arabia.  ITTMO has several collaborations with different universities and institutions from inside and outside Saudi Arabia through institutional agreements.

On the other hand, all submitted regular research passes through the ITTMO for evaluation and to look for any innovative ideas and potential patentability.

Dr. Al Muntashri mentioned that they have conducted over six workshops this year in different regions in Saudi Arabia where they promoted the center and its activities attracting researchers and students.


“Certification of Clinical Research Professionals”

This workshop was designed to serve five main objectives including providing detailed information about clinical research certification and its importance, raising the level of proficiency while enhancing the critical thinking of researchers, recognizing the difference between academic and professional certifications, reviewing the required body of knowledge for the ACRP certification (including process, importance, benefits, and materials), and teaching participants to identify examples of professionalism and professional behavior in order to gravitate towards them.

The main target audience was the clinical research coordinators (CRCs), clinical research associates (CRAs) and principal investigators (PIs). The content included a variety of subjects designed to meet the desired objectives. The workshop program started with an introduction about professional certification and the organizations that provide such certifications for CRCs, CRAs and PIs, specifically including the ACRP in addition to KSA chapter.

Next, a session about the difference between academic certificates and professional certification commenced.  It included information about professionalism and professional behaviors as well as how to act as professional study coordinator, monitor, or principal investigator.

During the workshop, the speakers focused on the main activities that need to be performed by the CRCs, CRAs and PIs through the lifecycle of a clinical trial.  This includes the proper steps for preparing, conducting and completing a clinical trial.

The workshop ended with an interactive session regarding the ACRP certification exam with questions and a discussion on the steps for applying for the exam, in addition to tips on how to answer such questions and managing the time during exam session.