Sharjah Institute For Medical Research (SIMR)


Preamble: SIMR is poised to take advantage of, and excel in, this new research environment, with its schools of, biomedical/biotechnology sciences, dental medicine, medicine, CHS, and Pharmacy.

The vision for the resulting five-year SIMR strategic plan is to strengthen programs across all UOS respective schools and units, foster integration and collaboration across the colleges of health and medical sciences and between SIMR and the university's biological/biochemical and engineering programs, build academic strength in health throughout UOS, and UAE society at large by improving biomedical and health care research.

SIMR will be leading the UOS efforts to be a national and international leader in the biomedical and health sciences and their related professions. The approach incorporates insights from laboratory basic sciences as well as clinical, behavioral, and public health. SIMR will advance population-based, value-driven health care by building on its recognized clinical and biomedical research, engaging with local and global communities, taking advantage of and strengthening its uniquely diverse faculty, and realizing inter-professional synergies among its schools. Further, SIMR will strengthen its many professional ties with international, NGOs and the government institutions (MOH, MHED…etc) and foster new public-private partnerships vital to UAE health and biomedical research.

Vision

To be a national and international leader in translational medical sciences research, innovation, and training of future scientists.

Mission

To accelerate translational and innovative biomedical research through the development and integration of cutting-edge multidisciplinary researches targeting common health problems relevant to the region. Fostering partnerships with national/international research institutions.

Research

Current SIMR research activities and priorities focuses on cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurological and infectious diseases. The research spectrum extends from molecular to population based studies. SIMR currently encompasses the following research groups:

  • Cancer Molecular Biology Research Groups

The Cancer Biology Area of Research Emphasis is oriented towards modern molecular and cellular biology, molecular genetics, cellular biochemistry, and immunology especially in those areas dealing with mechanisms controlling neoplastic transformation, cellular division, differentiation, apoptosis, invasion, and metastasis. The abilities of cancer biologists to elucidate basic mechanisms of cellular transformation and molecular events in tumor progression are being applied toward improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In addition, cancer biologists in our program are contributing toward the understanding of basic mechanisms of growth control and cellular differentiation that can be universally applied to other disciplines, such as developmental biology, virology, immunology, and genetics.

 

  • Pharmacology, Drug Discovery and Development Research Group

The group focuses on finding new therapeutic agents and targets through the application of state of the art technology lies at the interface between molecular biology and medicinal chemistry. Hundreds of compounds produced by the School pharmacy have the potential for therapeutic applications impacting many disease targets, such as enzymes, proteins and specific drug receptors. Integrating medicinal, computational and synthetic chemistry with in vitro and cellular biology, the group investigates novel drug discovery targets in an attempt to provide new chemical entities for the treatment of in cancer, infectious as well Alzheimer's disease. Consequently, the group has made devoted efforts to establish valuable and increasingly productive close working relationships with a number of national and international collaborators.

 

  • Stem Cell Research

The Stem Cell Ecology team concentrates its efforts on four main areas of research

a. Investigating how the balance of intrinsic and extrinsic signaling affects stem cell                 differentiation and transformation;
b. Assessing the contributions of the environment (host) and microenvironment in tumorigenesis (examining immune system involvement in the transformation of stem cells as well as the effect of tumorigenesis on the host);
c. Translation of the knowledge gained from this work into validating therapeutic targets by developing approaches to condition the environment to retard tumorigenesis and tumor metastasis; and,
d. To use stem/progenitor cells to model human tumors.

  • Extramural Funding
SIMR currently supports high priority research projects with potential benefits to the UAE in cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.  Besides the intramural research support from the University of Sharjah, extramural research grants have been obtained to support researchers at SIMR from several institutions. Since the last two years, research scientists at SIMR were successful in securing around 4 million AED for cancer and diabetes projects mainly. among others are:

  1. Emirates Foundation,
  2. L'Oreal for Women in Science Award,
  3. Sheikh Hamdan Award,
  4. National Science Foundation,
  5. Baker/IDI, Ministry of Health,
  6. Sanofi Avantis,
  7. AlJalila Foundation and
  8. Terry Fox research grant
  9. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceutical Company
  10. KEF Holding Foundation

SIMR Core Facilities


SIMR currently has state of the art research equipment needed to study cancer, diabetes, genetic diseases and drug design and discovery equipment.

1.  Molecular Imaging Platform
a.  Confocal imaging system – 3D molecular devices

This instrument enables researchers to study cells that more closely mimic native conditions, generating more biologically relevant results. In addition, high-content analysis generates multi-parametric data, which is crucial to gaining a better understanding of the complex interactions between molecules and signaling pathways in normal and disease states.

b. PCR instrument:

PCR instrument is used for genetic testing, where a sample of DNA is analyzed for the presence of genetic disease mutations. PCR analysis is also essential to Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, where individual cells of a developing embryo are tested for mutations. Many forms of cancer involve alterations to oncogenes. By using PCR-based tests is also used to study these mutations.

c. Flow Cytometry:

Flow Cytometry is a laser-based, biophysical technology employed in cancer research for cell counting, cell cycle analysis, cell sorting, biomarker detection and protein engineering, by suspending cells in a stream of fluid and passing them by an electronic detection apparatus.

d. Fluorescence Microscopy:
Fluorescent microscopy is often used to:  imaging structural components of small specimens, such as cells; conducting viability studies on cell populations; imaging the genetic material within a cell (DNA and RNA); viewing specific cells within a larger population.  

2.Western Blotting
The western blot (sometimes called the protein immune-blot) is an analytical technique used to detect specific proteins in the given sample of tissue homogenate or extract. It uses gel electrophoresis to separate native proteins by 3-D structure or denatured proteins by the length of the polypeptide. The proteins are then transferred to a membrane (typically nitrocellulose or PVDF), where they are stained with antibodies specific to the target protein.

3. Light Inverted microscope
Inverted microscope is useful for observing living cells or organisms at the bottom of a large container (e.g., a tissue culture flask) under more natural conditions than on a glass slide, as is the case with a conventional microscope.

4. Liquid-Chromatography-Mass Spectrophotometer (LC-MS/MS):
TOF LC/MS systems provide accurate-mass analyses for profiling, identifying, characterizing, and quantifying low molecular-weight compounds and biomolecules. These TOF systems deliver exceptional MS analyses that support demanding applications such as proteomics, metabolomics, impurity testing, product degradation studies, forensics, food safety, and environmental analyses.

5. Tissue culture facility laboratory equipment:
Laminar flow hood (biological safety cabinet), CO2 incubator (for most cells), Aspiration pump, Centrifuge, Cold storage rooms (-80 and -20 oC), hypoxia station, Gel electrophoresis, Sterilization equipment, Balances, Vortex, Water purification, pH meter, Magnetic stirrers, Micropipettor(s), Cell counter…etc.

6. Organic synthesis laboratory:
Equipped with necessary tools needed for syntheses, purification and identification of small molecules.
 

7. Animal Facility. State of the art animal facility is in the establishment process.

8. 500 MHz, NMR facility

Five Year Strategic Plan

To Enhance Research Productivity in our current Strong Priority Research Areas at SIMR:
  1. Cancer Molecular/immunological Research:
  • recruiting key faculty research scientists (Principal Investigators and senior scientists) in Molecular Genetics/ Proteomics, Neurodegenerative diseases who will both increase SIMR productivity, breadth and depth.
  • The cancer program will be expanded to enhance research and patient care in collaboration with University Hospital Sharjah.
  • Recruit Post Doctoral Research Associates in top priority areas

 

 Proposed short and medium term Strategic Plan

Year 1 and 2:
  • Allocate Funding for high-quality and competitive research projects (VCR office).
  • The recruitment process for identified faculty/research assistant positions will begin.
  • Restructuring and strengthening the currently available postgraduate program in Translational and Molecular Medicine Program that will involve different tracks as stated in the preamble above.
  • In collaboration with the UOS colleges, Establish bench marks for new multidisciplinary postgraduate programs based on our strengths
  • In collaboration with Applied Sciences and Engineering Institute, support and collaborate on the establishment of Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance Research and Analysis Center.
  • Strengthen ties with the industry and other research institutions in the country and internationally.

 

Year 3 and 4:

  • Assessment of the achievements of years 1 & 2 plans and the ongoing research programs will be conducted.
  • Expanding the research programs to include other top priority research fields.
  • Critical faculty research recruitments needed to enhance our ongoing and future programs will be identified.
  • Recruit senior faculty research (ideally, one for each identified priority areas) with established track records of publications in leading journals in their respective fields.
  • Establish Drug Bioequivalence studies and research center 

 

Year 5:

  • Comprehensive evaluation of the above plans and set up the pathways for further improvements.

    Prepared by Prof. Taleb AlTel/College of Pharmacy University of Sharjah

    Director of the Research Institute for Medical and Health Sciences

    Sharjah, UAE, November 19th, 2014