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1st biomedical research symposium

Meeting Summary

The 1st Biomedical Research Symposium was held at PPU, Hebron, Palestine, on 7/5/11. The symposium was organized by the Palestinian Forum for Medical Research (PFMR) in cooperation with the Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU) and Bethlehem University Joint Master program.

The event started with a welcome note by Dr. Ibrahim Almasri, PPU President. This was followed by Dr. Yaqoub Ashhab, PPU Dean of Graduate Studies and founding member of PFMR, who discussed the importance of biomedical research for Palestinians. Dr. Ashhab presented some of the factors that contribute to the success of biomedical research and the obstacles our country faces in this field. He argued that medical research needs policy, resources, manpower and cooperation between different Palestinian institutes. He further highlighted the need for successful policy and management, starting with the establishment of clear strategic objectives for biomedical research in line with the country’s requirements, national funding and resources and future ambitions.

To achieve these goals, Dr. Ashhab emphasized the need for sharing resources and facilities between the different institutes, networking of Palestinian scientists and investing in human resources, thus reducing the ‘brain drain’. By the end of his speech, Dr. Ashhab stressed on the fact that the overarching goal of medical research must be the benefit of all humanity.

After these two introductory notes, the scientific program of the symposium started. The morning session included a lecture on a new target for cancer therapy given by Dr. Jawad Alzeer, Assistant Professor at PPU and a founding member of PFMR. This was followed by 4-talks given by MSc students; Mr. Raed Ghneim, Ms. Randa Kattan, Mr. Mohammad Qabaja, and Mr. Belal Tamimi, focusing on infectious diseases.

The second session started with two talks given by MSc students; Mr. Mohammad Salahat and Ms. Mai Alabed, focusing on cancer research in Palestine.

This was followed by the official launching of PFMR by Dr. Rami Aqeilan, President of the Forum. Dr. Aqeilan discussed the need for a Palestinian body to foster and develop biomedical research in Palestine. He showed a roadmap illustrating how to fulfill the mission of PFMR emphasizing the need for: i) inter-collaborative projects among Palestinian scientists, ii) establishing a common shared resources bank that can benefit medical researchers, iii) supporting graduate students with finding scholarships in areas related to medical research in order to enhance Palestinian human resources in this field and iv) hosting meetings/workshops for Palestinian scientists. Dr. Aqeilan concluded by encouraging all attendees to become members of the Forum.

The keynote talk was next and was given by Dr. Yaqub Hanna from Whitehead Institute, MIT who presented novel data on Pluripotent Stem Cells and Epigenetic Reprogramming. Dr. Hanna showed his recent advances in understanding the mechanisms of reprogramming and elucidating the extent of equivalence of the in vitro derived cells to their in vivo counterparts. He further highlighted future possibilities for utilizing epigenetic reprogramming in experimental and theoretical modelling of gene expression regulation, cell fate decisions and early mammalian development. Dr. Hanna’s talk was followed by an open discussion on future application of reprogramming and at the end of this session, PFMR awarded Dr. Hanna the PFMR Trophy for his pioneer research achievements in stem cell.

The excitement continued in the afternoon session, where several talks on human genetics and apoptosis presented by two researchers; Dr. Nouar Qutob, Assistant Professor at Al Quds–Bard Honors College and Vice President of PFMR and Dr. Jony Stiban, Assistant Professor at Birzeit University and two MSc students; Ms. Abeer Zawahreh and Ms. Haya Borqan.

The final session included a general discussion on future activities of PFMR. Three of the master program students were awarded the PFMR Trophy for their excellent presentations and these were Mr. Belal Tamimi, Ms.Randa Kattan and Ms.Mai Alabed

The first prize was given to Mr. Belal Tamimi who is pursuing a Masters degree in Informatics at Palestine Polytechnic University. He holds a B.Sc. in Computer Systems Engineering from Palestine Polytechnic University. His thesis title is BACTOSOM; A novel tool for Comparative Bacterial Proteomics.

The second prize was given to Ms. Randa Kattan who is a medical technologist at Caritas Baby Hospital and is pursuing a Masters degree in Biotechnology at Bethlehem University/ Palestine Polytechnic University. She holds a B.Sc. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry and Medical Technology from Bethlehem University. Her thesis title is Genetic Variability and Molecular Epidemiology of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Southern Palestine.

The third prize was given to Ms. Mai Alabed who is pursuing a Masters degree in Biotechnology at Bethlehem University/ Palestine Polytechnic University. She holds a B.Sc. in Biology and a minor in Medical Technology from Bethlehem University. Her thesis title is PTEN Expression in Palestinian Women Breast Cancer, Particularly in Triple Negative subtype.

PFMR also awarded two of the PPU administration personnel; Ms. Nihad Salahat and Mr. Hatem Naseredin, for their immense contribution to the success of the 1st Biomedical Research Symposium.

The Symposium concluded by a general discussion on possible future activities of PFMR.

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