Saudi university research team leads global fight against COVID-19

Saudi university research team leads global fight against COVID-19
KAUST President Dr. Tony Chan said the university’s research community had come together to offer its expertise on a number of fronts in the battle against COVID-19. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 23 April 2020

Saudi university research team leads global fight against COVID-19

Saudi university research team leads global fight against COVID-19
  • KAUST’s team is one of many university and research centers that are harnessing a whole breadth of knowledge to answer critical questions about the spread of COVID-19
  • Dr. Tony Chan noted R3T’s partnership with the Saudi Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ministry of Health in coordinating efforts and exchanging expertise

JEDDAH: A Saudi university is helping lead the global fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Experts from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) are collaborating with the Saudi Ministry of Health and other government entities on research projects vital to preventing the spread of the killer virus.

A specialist rapid research response team (R3T) set up by the university has been working to provide face-shield and ventilator prototypes with manufacturing partners McLaren and Olayan Group, respectively.

And it is also contributing to initiatives taking place throughout the world to find ways of combating the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

KAUST President Dr. Tony Chan told Arab News how KAUST’s research community had come together to offer its expertise on a number of fronts.

“Within the first week of the outbreak, a number of our established scientists and researchers presented project proposals in their own respected fields, all working on different aspects.

“We are not a pharmaceutical company or a hospital, but we have the means and capabilities to help the national and international response in other ways,” he said.

Many of the projects underway have brought together researchers from some of the world’s top academic institutions, biotech companies, research centers, hospitals, and health ministries.

KAUST’s team is one of many university and research centers that are harnessing a whole breadth of knowledge to answer critical questions about the spread of COVID-19, how to prevent it, and the best ways to treat the infection.

In the short term, the R3T’s work to develop face shields and ventilators is already having an impact.

“Our way of answering the call was to design our own components for the face shields and ventilators,” said Chan. “The face-shield prototype is for frontline staff to use. A prototype has been sent to the National Guard Hospital (in Jeddah) for use in the medical center and we may deploy it in other hospitals.”

He added that the global supply for ventilator systems had been increasing with the rising number of infections.

“KAUST’s R3T has joined the global effort to provide a fast and effective solution by working on the design and prototyping of mechanical actuators using Ambu (artificial manual breathing unit) bags. These are self-inflating bags used globally to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients who are not breathing or not breathing adequately.”

Chan noted R3T’s partnership with the Saudi Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ministry of Health in coordinating efforts and exchanging expertise to ensure fast and reliable diagnostic tests and optimize existing tests.

“On the diagnostic and therapeutic front, there are three areas we’d like to address. The first would be contributing to the global mapping of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus strain that causes COVID-19) virus genome and its genetic code. The second would be the improvement of drug development, and the third is working on the ramping up of serological testing for improved detection,” he said.

The combination of the university’s resources, its faculty expertise and developers, and the research projects put forward by the R3T, would not only contribute to the immediate global fight against COVID-19 but also future joint research projects into the disease and to tackle several issues at once, Chan added.

One way of doing that was by detecting the global genetic signatures of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in order to help scientists around the world understand how the virus changed over time, and the best means for both diagnostics and treatment.

Headed by Prof. Arnab Pain, the KAUST team will be comparing the genomes of the virus circulating in the Kingdom and comparing them in the global population where they can systematically track any mutation in the genetic material from the start of the pandemic.

A number of COVID-19 publications have already been released by KAUST researchers along with the R3T’s projects that tackle the subject on several fronts.

From working to support and improve pandemic preparedness with reagents, to exploring treatment options for the disease, Chan said the team was committed to tackling COVID-19.


Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
Updated 06 March 2021

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
  • Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours
  • The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from Arab countries

DUBAI: The Arab coalition on Saturday intercepted and destroyed two Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan and Khamis Mushait, state news agency SPA reported.
Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours.
He added that the Iranian-backed militia’s attempts to attack civilians in a deliberate and systematic manner constituted war crimes.
Al-Maliki said the coalition had put in place measures to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Earlier on Friday, the coalition intercepted and destroyed six Houthi drones targeting the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt.
The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from countries including the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan where they stated their full support for the Kingdom in its fight against the militia.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also said that the continuation of these crimes confirms the militia’s dangerous escalations and its intent to harm the security of Saudi Arabia and undermine the stability of the region.


Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques
Updated 06 March 2021

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

RIYADH: The Riyadh branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance on Friday organized an awareness and monitoring campaign to ensure mosques were implementing COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The campaign was carried out in cooperation with the General Directorate of Health Affairs in Riyadh and a number of volunteer associations.
Healthcare volunteers and mosque supervisors took part in the campaign. Participants told worshippers to comply with social distancing measures, use their own prayer mats, and wear a face mask at all times.
They also organized the entry and exit of worshippers, in addition to distributing masks and prayer mats among them.
The director general of the ministry’s branch in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Fares, said the campaign aimed to help raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention methods.
He added that the campaign was in line with the efforts of various state agencies to fight the pandemic and also promote a culture of volunteering among government bodies.

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19
How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world
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Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
‘The Journey’ tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
  • The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people

JEDDAH: The 300 young Saudis who went to Japan to receive training in the art of manga will be able to see their new anime film on the cinematic big screen this summer.
The term manga is used in Japan to refer to both comics and cartooning, as the famous art form has been gaining popularity in the Kingdom for years.
That is why the Manga Productions Company recruited hundreds of young Saudis to come to the Toei Animation Studios to work on the first Saudi-Japanese anime film “The Journey.”
The company’s CEO Essam Bukhary, who is also the executive producer for the film, described the project as “the result of Saudi creative content production in cooperation with high-level international partners.”
Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.
“Those young men and women worked along with the Japanese team on all the phases of the work, starting from writing the story, designing the characters, backgrounds, storyboard, editing, reviewing and others,” Bukhary told the YaHala TV show on Rotana Khalijia.
He said “The Journey” tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city.
Bukhary said the film will be displayed in both Arabic and Japanese.

HIGHLIGHT

Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.

The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people.
Saudi Royal Court adviser Turki Al-Sheikh, who is also the General Entertainment Authority chairman, tweeted: “I am ready to help with anything I can do.”
In another tweet, the Saudi Media Ministry posted: “The Journey, which will be displayed in the Middle East and North Africa this summer, represents a big cinematic step based on the Saudi Arabian heritage.”
The Japanese Embassy in Riyadh is excited for the film’s debut this summer and also praised both countries for their cooperation on the project.
Khaled Ibrahim, a Saudi digital illustrator, said the Kingdom is full of talented young men and women who just need studios where they can make similar animations and cartoons.
“The work that Manga Production has done, in collaboration with the famous Japanese Toei Animation, is a source of pride to us all,” he told Arab News.
Ibrahim said he was thrilled to hear that the company insisted on giving Saudis the chance to take part in courses on animation making.
“This could become the cornerstone for a new local industry,” he said.


Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services
Updated 06 March 2021

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Muhammad Ali Albakri has been appointed senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Since January 2017, Albakri held the role of regional vice president for the Africa and Middle East region.

Succeeding Aleks Popovich, Albakri is now responsible for IATA’s financial settlement products and services. He will be expected to process more than $450 billion of industry every year.
His responsibilities also include strengthening IATA’s client and customer activities, along with the company’s digital transformation initiatives for the benefit of the aviation industry.
IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said Popovich left behind a great team with a clear focus on customer service that will continue to drive critical changes under Albakri’s capable leadership.
The company’s website described Albakri as “an agent of change,” who will transform the MENA team to better serve member needs and pioneer the work of IATA’s digital transformation advisory council.
“Albakri is well prepared to guide the development of IATA’s commercial offerings, settlement services and digital leadership,” de Juniac said in a statement. “In normal times, these are critical functions, even more so in the middle of an industry crisis.”
Albakri previously worked for Saudia, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, and served as its vice president of information technology. From 2009 to 2016, he was in charge of strengthening the company’s technology infrastructure and modernizing its financial practices. Albakri earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.


Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
Updated 06 March 2021

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
  • All events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice
  • Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people

RIYADH: Cinemas, gyms and sports centers will be allowed to reopen in Saudi Arabia from Sunday.
Indoor dining can also resume in restaurants and cafes along with other recreational activities, the interior ministry said on Friday.
However, all events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes weddings, corporate meetings, events in banquet halls and social events.
Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
The Kingdom suspended recreational events on Feb. 3 to halt the spread of COVID-19. The suspension was extended on Feb. 14 for 20 days.
The ministry urged people to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and said there would be an increase in spot checks to ensure everyone followed the rules.

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19
How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world
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