“Biomedical Computing in the Arab World: Unlocking the Potential of a Growing Research Community”
Communications of the ACM, April 2021, Vol. 64 No. 4, Pages 108-113
Arab World special section: Big trends
By Seif Eldawlatly, Mohamed Abouelhoda, Omar S. Al-Kadi, Takashi Gojobori, Boris Jankovic, Mohamad Khalil, Ahsan H. Khandoker, Ahmed Morsy
“Biomedical signal analysis has risen as one of the key research areas, given the advances in the technology of recording different physiological signals from the human body.”
Health challenges represent one of the long-standing issues in the Arab region that hinder its ability to develop. Prevalence of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis and cancer among many others has contributed to the deteriorated health status across the region leading to lower life expectancy compared to other regions. For instance, the average life expectancy in the Arab world is approximately 70 years, which is at least 10 years lower than most high-income countries. Among many directions of healthcare development across the region, biomedical computing research represents one main arm of tackling health challenges. Advances in computational technologies have enabled the emergence of biomedical computing as one of the most influential research areas worldwide. In recent years, life sciences have witnessed an explosion in the volumes of biomedical data generated by high-throughput technologies and other sources. The enormity of volumes and interdependence in biomedical data pose great analytical challenges in the quest to infer deeply hidden knowledge buried under this complexity. As such, the biomedical computing research community in the Arab world has been actively contributing to the efforts that tackle long-standing biomedical challenges.
Research in biomedical computing in the region dates back to mid-1970s with the establishment of the Systems and Biomedical Engineering department at Cairo University in Egypt. Since then, the number of related programs has steadily increased and researchers from different disciplines have developed interest in biomedical computing applications. Despite the limited available resources, researchers from the Arab region have made over the years strong contributions to the rapid advances that occur in the field of biomedical computing. Recent successful efforts by researchers across the region have been evident in three broad areas of biomedical computing; namely, biomedical imaging, biomedical signal analysis and bioinformatics. These efforts have materialized in advancing a diverse spectrum of bio-medical computing applications, as well as stimulating clear commercial interest.
This article sheds light on notable research efforts in the Arab world in each of the aforementioned areas of biomedical computing. It also demonstrates how this research addresses healthcare issues in the region. A glimpse of the impact of research in this area in stimulating the budding culture of entrepreneurship and startup of new ventures across the region will be discussed. Finally, we introduce a vision for different avenues of development that could magnify the outcomes of the biomedical computing research community in the region.
About the Authors:
Seif Eldawlatly, Computer and Systems Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt, and Faculty of Media Engineering and Technology, German University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
Mohamed Abouelhoda, Systems and Biomedical Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt, and, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, and Saudi Human Genome Program, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Omar S. Al-Kadi, King Abdullah II School for Information Technology, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan.
Takashi Gojobori, Computational Bioscience Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.
Boris Jankovic, Computational Bioscience Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.
Mohamad Khalil, Faculty of Engineering, Lebanese University, Tripoli, Lebanon.
Ahsan H. Khandoker, Healthcare Engineering Innovation Center (HEIC), Department of Biomedical Engineering, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Ahmed Morsy, Systems and Biomedical Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, Giza, Egypt.