KAUST-developed COVID-19 test kit to have big impact for Saudi Arabia

KAUST-developed COVID-19 test kit to have big impact for Saudi Arabia
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University president Dr. Tony Chan celebrates the new test with NoorDX chief executive Abdulaleh Alhawsawi.
KAUST-developed COVID-19 test kit to have big impact for Saudi Arabia
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KAUST President Dr. Tony Chan was the first to take the Kingdom’s new COVID-19 RT-PCR test. (KAUST/West)
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Updated 06 October 2021

KAUST-developed COVID-19 test kit to have big impact for Saudi Arabia

KAUST-developed COVID-19 test kit to have big impact for Saudi Arabia
  • Startup NoorDX launched the new service
  • The service will expand to include communities throughout the Kingdom

JEDDAH: The Kingdom’s first COVID-19 RT-PCR test, developed at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.

KAUST startup NoorDX launched the new service at KAUST Health, and university president Dr. Tony Chan was the first to be tested.

Located in the Core Labs at KAUST, NoorDX provides a full suite of processing equipment using biotech diagnostics developed by Dr. Samir Hamdan, professor of bioscience, and his Rapid Research Response team.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of daily PCR tests in the Kingdom has risen from a few thousand to between 75,000 and 110,000 a day. Saudi Arabia has used kits developed outside the country to meet demand, but in-house capability increases self-reliance while reducing waiting time and related costs. The result is an economical, single-step, multiuse RT-PCR test priced significantly lower than previous tests. 

The service begins at KAUST, and will expand to include communities throughout the Kingdom. People can expect high-accuracy results delivered to their personal devices via QR code in 24 hours, with most results returned in 12 hours. Travelers are good to go after downloading and printing the report. For a premium, results can be returned within five hours.

In addition to being the first Saudi test kit provider, NoorDX will be the first genomics entity in the Kingdom with fully localized capability, offering a portfolio of genomic services from early in 2022. Most clinical tests are currently sent abroad, and localized production is strategic to building genomics expertise within the Kingdom.

NoorDX chief executive Dr. Abdulaleh Alhawsawi said: “This is a great moment, both for KAUST’s ability to provide quality RT–PCR tests, and soon, gene sequencing. NoorDX will cater to Saudi communities with a full range of services and downstream applications, from dry to wet lab technologies, to analytics, to building the Saudi biobank and national genome.”

KAUST is transforming patient care through its partnerships. NoorDX is among a constellation of experts contributing to robust health services from the areas of academia, economic innovation, biotechnology and biopharma. They include Dr. Pierre Magistretti, director of the Smart-Health Initiative; Dr. Samir Hamdan and the Rapid Research Response team; Dr. Arnab Pain, director of the Pathogen Genomics Laboratory; KAUST Innovation; the Core Labs; the Office of the President; the Office of Research; the Department of Health, Safety and Environment; and KAUST Health.


Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands

Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands
Updated 10 sec ago

Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands

Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands
  • Up to 70% off on fashion, home accessories, cosmetics
  • 3m items from 1,500 firms on display until Oct. 14

JEDDAH: The Saudi General Entertainment Authority on Wednesday announced the launch of “Outlet 2022” shopping festival, the first of its kind in the Kingdom.

According to the organizers, the two-week outdoor festival, which will kick off on Saturday, will offer exclusive discounts of up to 70 percent on fashion, home accessories, and cosmetic products designed by international experts. The event’s galleries will have a Greek-inspired design.

On his Twitter account, Turki Al-Sheikh, GEA chairman, said the event in Riyadh is a pioneering initiative.

“We’ll soon have the ‘Outlet Festival,’ the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia. The festival will bring together the most famous brands in the world to be sold at reduced prices and discounts. A different thing in Riyadh,” Al-Sheikh said in his tweet.

The festival will be held in Al-Rehab neighborhood, west of the Saudi capital, and will include places to eat and events for children.

Farah Ahmed, who lives in the neighborhood, told Arab News that she has been observing the construction of the outlet. “It’s impressive how quickly the GEA built the space. They are working day and night to make it happen.” 

Entry to the festival is free, and will include more than three million discounted items of 1,500 international brands.

“I’m so excited about the festival, especially (since) I haven’t been able to travel or shop this summer, yet I feel that two weeks is not enough. I hope the GEA extends it further,” she added. 

Doors will be open daily from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets can be booked through the Ticket MX App and website, and VIP and VVIP tickets can be booked through the Parky App and website.


MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres

MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres
Updated 8 min 4 sec ago

MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres

MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres

RIYADH: President of the Board of Grievances, and of the Administrative Judiciary Council, Sheikh Khaled Al-Youssef, recently signed a memorandum of understanding between the board and the US Case Western Reserve University in research and training.

The terms of the memorandum included training and development of judicial and administrative cadres and exchanging experiences and research in the administrative and organizational fields, to benefit from the CWRU’s expertise as one of the most prestigious international universities in the field of law and administration.

A seminar, “Synergies between the Board of Grievances in Saudi Arabia and CWRU School of Law in the US,” was also held, during which Al-Youssef presented a working paper, highlighting the Board of Grievances’ achievements in completing the digital transformation of all litigation procedures.

The working paper focused on highlighting aspects of cooperation between the two sides under the signed MoU.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Saudi Chamber recently hosted a meeting between Saudi businesspeople and a delegation from the World Affairs Councils of America to discuss cooperation between the two sides to support Saudi-US relations.

The Saudi side acquainted the US delegation with the top programs and initiatives of the Saudi Vision 2030, in addition to the mega projects that are being developed in Qiddiya and the Red Sea, among others, and the developments witnessed in the educational, tourism, technological, digital, artificial intelligence, women, youth and SMEs sectors.


Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference

Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference
Updated 12 min 51 sec ago

Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference

Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference

MEXICO: Unequal access to new technologies, illicit trafficking and threats to cultural heritage were among the issues on the agenda for international culture ministers who met Wednesday in Mexico City for the World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development, or MONDIACULT.

Representatives of around 160 UNESCO member states are participating in the three-day conference, which seeks to reaffirm the global commitment to contemporary challenges facing multicultural societies and to formulate a forward-looking vision for cultural policies.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan headed the Kingdom’s delegation to MONDIACULT 2022.

The Saudi minister also headed the regional consultations for the Arab region, representing Saudi Arabia.

The consultations focused on four main objectives: identifying national and regional trends of cultural policies in countries, identifying and analyzing challenges and opportunities for cultural policies throughout the region, supporting the listing of culture in the regional trends agenda, and identifying priorities that can contribute to the final statement of MONDIACULT 2022.

The goals of the final declaration to be adopted on Friday include guaranteeing artists’ rights and regulating distribution platforms, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.

Another objective is to ensure culture is included in international discussions on climate change, notably through traditional and Indigenous knowledge systems.

“Our cultural heritage is threatened very directly by global warming,” Azoulay said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that culture is vital for public health, according to conference coordinator Pablo Raphael.

“No one would have been able to survive the confinement and stress…without books, music and cinema,” he said.

The health crisis also laid bare technological inequalities between different communities, Mexican Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said.

One of the meeting’s objectives is to find ways to guarantee that artists have access to technologies to share their work.

The final declaration is expected to include a call to recognize culture as a “global public good” that benefits all of the world’s citizens.


Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries

Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries
Updated 21 min 1 sec ago

Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries

Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia announced it had recently relaxed rules for foreign students, introducing long and short-term educational visas.

The educational visas target male and female students, researchers, and academics for higher education to attract distinguished talents and raise the quality of the education and sector, presenting the Kingdom as an attractive educational destination.

The Ministry of Education pointed out that this scheme is divided into short-term visas for educational programs of up to a year and long-term visas for programs of more than a year.

It also noted that the advantages of the visa scheme are to serve students from 160 countries, register data in nine languages, link applications with the relevant authorities, and facilitate the procedures for enrolling in universities in the Kingdom.

The holders of long and short-term educational visas are exempt from the statutory requirement related to providing a sponsor in the Kingdom.

Shoura Council member Dr. Sultana Al-Badawi told Arab News that the educational visa is one of the myriads of achievements of the Kingdom.

“It achieves one of the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 … to be an open country for everyone, whether for work, tourism or performing religious rituals,” said Al-Badawi.

She noted that any student in the world meeting the conditions for an educational visa can now apply for an one to benefit from the Kingdom’s numerous advantages.

“We will have short and long-term visas for educational purposes, dealing with various academic and research aspects, innovation, training, teaching, study, and others, enabling students to benefit from studying in universities and advanced Saudi educational institutions,” she added.

“I am certain that the coming period will witness large (numbers of) applications for educational visas from different countries given the Kingdom’s great global stature, reflected in its economy and the flexibility of its systems to achieve the requirements of a good life, on top of which are security and safety.”


Saudi Maritime Congress draws record interest

Saudi Maritime Congress draws record interest
Updated 37 min 36 sec ago

Saudi Maritime Congress draws record interest

Saudi Maritime Congress draws record interest
  • Experts discuss latest updates on their industry’s contribution to Vision 2030

DAMMAM: To coincide with World Maritime Day, the third Saudi Maritime Congress began on Sept. 28 at the Dhahran Expo.

On day one of the two-day conference, registration lines snaked across the building and into the parking lot, as visitors waited to enter what the organizers called “the Kingdom’s largest and most important global maritime event.”

Organizers said that the turnout was record-breaking in comparison to earlier events.

The space was opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Rumaih Al-Rumaih, vice minister of transport and logistic services, Omar Hariri, president of the Saudi Ports Authority, and the undersecretary of the Eastern Province governorate, Khalid Al-Batal. 

The event offered visitors the chance to tour the vast exhibition space. Dedicated booths provided businesses with the chance to initiate dialogue, pass out brochures and inform visitors of their company’s mission. This provided an organic networking option for people to exchange ideas and business cards.

The event, held under the patronage of Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman, deputy governor of the Eastern Province, featured a Keynote session, “Vision 2030: An update on progress and opportunity for growth,” during which panelists discussed the latest updates on their industry’s contribution to Vision 2030.

(AN photo by Jasmine Bager)

Ahmed Alsubaey, CEO of Bahri, the transportation and logistics company and the national carrier of Saudi Arabia, said: “Guided by KSA Vision 2030, we are committed to making the Kingdom the epicenter for international trade. To achieve this, currently our key focus areas include supporting KSA’s aspiration to reach the top 25 in the Logistics Performance Index and be one of the top 15 global economies.” 

There were also several panels and talks that explored present and future challenges for the logistics sector globally — but with an emphasis on Saudi Arabia.

Expert moderator Eithne Treanor of E Treanor Media was on hand, as was Jasmin Fichte of Fichte & Co. Legal. Topics explored included: How the industry fits into Vision 2030, and why companies are embracing technology while enabling trade and enhancing port standards. The topic of supply-chain efficiency and ports and logistics infrastructure in the region was also addressed.

On day two, talks focused on decarbonization and the fuel revolution to 2050, and on developing and training the maritime workforce. The forum offered the chance for people from all sectors of the industry to meet, brainstorm and update knowledge.

One of the key highlights was the virtual opening remarks by Kitack Lim, secretary general of the International Maritime Organization. Lim expressed his interest in trying to collectively tackle climate change and the challenges, and the opportunities, that come with automation and digitization.

(AN photo by Jasmine Bager)

“Shipping’s ability to transport large quantities of goods over vast distances in a cost-efficient manner is irrefutable, and the COVID pandemic and current geopolitical challenges have only served to increase the world’s awareness of its reliance on shipping and of seafarers’ invaluable role in global trade,” Lim said.

“I would like to express my appreciation to Saudi Arabia for the positive disposition to the aims and objectives of the IMO and for the constructive input to the work of the organization,” he said.

“I would also like to highlight the generous support for capacity-building in developing countries, such as through the IMO CARES (Coordinated Actions to Reduce Emissions from Shipping) initiative; funding to raise awareness of biofouling management and specifically to involve women across maritime industries and administrations; and thirdly, co-financing support for the GloLitter Project to tackle marine plastic litter.”

Chairman of Seatrade Maritime Chris Hayman echoed other speakers when he said: “Saudi Arabia is a vital contributor to the growth of the global maritime industry. Its strategic location makes it an ideal trade hub as it connects the eastern and western parts of the globe . . . Through a strategically planned agenda, and the participation of several leading maritime organizations, Saudi Maritime Congress has further paved the way for the country’s success.”

The congress also hosted strategic signings for industry collaboration between the Saudi Ports Authority and leading maritime companies in the region, including Bahri, International Maritime Industries, Saudi Accreditation Center, King Abdulaziz University, Tabadul, MBL, PCMS, Giza Arabia and Globe.