AUB and UKLTH to fund diabetes solution

UK Lebanon Tech Hub (UKLTH) announced today that it will fund the research and development of Ediamond (electromagnetic diabetes monitoring device): a one of its kind non-invasive blood glucose-monitoring device, which is being developed by the Maroun Semaan faculty of engineering and architecture and the faculty of medicine at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

The partnership was agreed at a formal signing ceremony on Wednesday May 17, which was attended by His Excellency Nicolas Sehnaoui, chairman of the board of the UKLTH, Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, president of AUB and Dr. Mohamed Harajli, provost of AUB, in addition to AUB deans of medicine and engineering and architecture, and senior executives.  

Ediamond is a continuous glucose monitoring wearable device that will enable diabetic patients to check their glucose levels without needing to come into contact with their blood stream, that is, through conventional methods such as repeatedly pricking their finger with a needle throughout the day. The lead investigators of Ediamond  are Dr. Joseph Costantine and Dr. Rouwaida Kanj from the Maroun Semaan faculty of engineering and architecture, and Dr. Assaad Eid from the faculty of medicine. 

“The goal of this collaboration is to produce a one of its kind non-invasive blood glucose monitoring device that will make monitoring as easy as checking the time of day,” Said Sehnaoui in a statement released today.

“With 15 percent of the world’s population suffering from diabetes we believe this device, which uses advanced electromagnetic theory, could make a profound difference to the lives of hundreds of millions of people. We hope, in particular, to empower those patients who lack diabetes management capabilities.”

President Khuri emphasized the importance of universities as centers of research for innovation and technology startups. “One of the most efficient ways to do business is to have the initial ideas come out from the academic institutions,” he said. “If you look at Silicon Valley, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, most of the companies have intimate ties with great universities.” 

The collaboration between the UKLTH and AUB demonstrates UKLTH’s commitment to supporting applied research projects through the recently set up International Research Centre (IRC).

The IRC was set up to play a key role in boosting investment in R&D in Lebanon and the wider MENA region, in particular by developing links between universities and entrepreneurs. Arab countries still lag considerably behind other knowledge economies in terms of investment in R&D. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Arab countries only allocated a maximum of 0.7 percent of their GDP to R&D whilst EU countries allocated up to 3.2 percent and Japan allocated 3.6 percent.

However, the UKLTH believes Lebanon has great potential to develop a world leading knowledge economy from greater investment in R&D. Lebanon ranks fourth out of 144 countries in mathematics and science education according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report. Also, over 11 percent of the student population study engineering while nine percent study computer and information technology. This has lead to Lebanon having the highest number of engineers per capita in the world.

Lebanon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is developing fast, which is demonstrated by Lebanon ICT sector’s eight per cent annual growth over the last five years and the expansion of the market to $400 million by 2015, according to a recent report by the UK Lebanon Tech Hub. This has helped position Lebanon in the Top 20 entrepreneurial nations of the world in 2015 (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). At the same time, Lebanon has many universities with dedicated research policies. Based on the most recent QS University Rankings, Lebanon had three universities in the top 20 universities of the Arab region, including the American University of Beirut, whose Faculties of medicine and Engineering and Architecture are ranked among the top in the MENA region.

Sehnaoui also highlighted how this partnership with AUB is a great platform for further collaborations. He added:

“We would like to create a direct link between the UKLTH and AUB by connecting our start-ups with AUB students. This will enable the students to gain first-hand knowledge of life at a start-up and hopefully spark their inner entrepreneur. It will also benefit our startups by providing them with interns to support their efforts.

“We would also like to create a simple incentive programme for professors from around the world to visit AUB as adjunct professors. Part of the programme will include being able to sit on the board of directors of our startups to offer valuable advice. This will benefit both parties as it will provide great international experience for the visiting professors, and our start-ups will have the advantage of participating in board meetings.”

Sehnaoui also shared his natural optimism that Lebanon will become a technological hub a few years down the line, saying that he believes in the capabilities of the Lebanese people in terms of innovation and creation. 

“It’s all about the will and the passion, and I am very passionate about this,” he said. “We live in fantastic times because of the exponential growth of Information Technology, which opens great possibilities for R&D. We live in fantastic times, we are fantastic people, and AUB is a fantastic university, so we can create fantastic things.”

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