(MENAFN - Arab News) The Kingdom has spent SR 350 million on research projects in the field of biotechnology through the national plan for science, technology and innovation during the past three years, the chief of research at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has said.
Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud was inaugurating the Saudi International Biotechnology Conference at the KACST headquarters in Riyadh yesterday. Besides international speakers from the United States and Japan, around 500 local delegates attended the function.
Essam Al-Yamani, chairman of the scientific committee, made the introductory remarks at the inaugural ceremony.
Prince Turki said the amount spent on research was 25 percent of the total strategic technology projects adopted by the national plan for research projects. He also pointed out that KACST is currently involved in several local and international bodies to develop biotechnology in the Kingdom. He enumerated the facilities available in the Kingdom to develop biotechnology.
Adah Al-Mutairi, a Saudi woman academician who is currently the associate professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), delivered the opening speech of the first scientific session. She spoke on "The art of falling apart: exploiting nanomaterial disassembly for health sciences".
Adah Al-Mutairi leads the Laboratory for Bioresponsive Materials, a highly interdisciplinary research group that combines chemistry with nanotechnology, and the Center of Excellence in Nanomedicine, a cross-campus collaborative that develops tools for the future of biology and medicine.
Speaking to Arab News, Al-Yamani said global biotechnology research and development spending had more than doubled in the last 10 years. "There is no doubt that biotechnology is a key pin in the future development and prosperity of any country."
He said the conference would review current biomedical nanotechnology strategies and thrusts internationally and within the Kingdom, with the sessions covering a wide range of essential scientific fields including regenerative medical technologies, imaging and diagnosis, and delivery of therapies.
The conference focuses on drug delivery technologies for pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology tools for biomedicine, chemical system engineering and nanobiotechnology, and new materials.
He pointed out that research into health biotechnology is vital, due to the incidence of certain rare diseases in the Kingdom, particularly in the field of genetics, and in the field of diagnosing and treating communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Health is an important factor in the social and economic development of any nation, he said. While Saudi Arabia has a young population at the moment, the older generation is living longer, and certain diseases are on the increase, such as diabetes, which threaten the future well being of the nation's population. These concerns have placed health at the center of economic development discourse in the Kingdom and high on the priority list for research and development. Biomedical and health science research contributes significantly toward improving people's health, minimizing the burden of disease, containing health care costs, and more importantly, improving the quality of life of people living in the Kingdom. "Overall, the main objectives of this conference are to enhance our understanding of the current use of nanobiotechnology in the field of medicine, and to make breakthroughs in treatment for many prevalent diseases within Saudi Arabia," Al-Yamani said.