25 Nov 2015

Al Jalila Foundation Fundraising Gala Dinner

Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

It is a great pleasure to join you tonight in support of a cause and a Foundation very close to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s heart, the hearts of all of us in the Al Maktoum family, and, I am sure, the hearts of all of you here this evening.

I have often watched His Highness Sheikh Mohammed speak on behalf of people who have no voice. He carries with him the messages of the poor, the disadvantaged and the persecuted. Every day that he wakes up he does his best to give life to their words and to do justice to their stories; to use not only his voice but his deeds to serve them and in so doing, he is able to be a part of the solution that shifts the axis of their reality.

It was His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s dream in creating Al Jalila Foundation for medical research to provide all of us, the people of Dubai, with a platform and a vehicle that empowers us to tackle something that affects every one of us.

The sad reality is that most of you here tonight will have experienced in one way or another, within your own families, the tragedy of incurable diseases; the anguish of debilitating illnesses; the pain of lives cut short. There can be few among us who do not understand on a very personal level, the importance and implications of medical research.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed chose his daughter’s name to put on this Foundation as a symbol of what every child means to their parents. And like many of you here this evening, our first prayer of gratitude each night is always for the good health of our children.

Regardless of the relative privilege and resources of many people in this room, it is no secret that good health remains a lottery for every single one of us, and for the people whom we hold most dear. Cancer does not differentiate, diabetes does not discriminate, and cardiovascular disease is equal-opportunity while rarer incurable diseases often seem to strike at random.

Despite the many great advancements that are being made in research every day, medical research remains one of humanity’s final frontiers and those who enable and enact medical research are perhaps some of the last great pioneers.

Medical research is continuous. An ever-evolving, never-ending pursuit that can transform our lives. However, research does not come cheap, and often, it does not provide a quick enough rate of return on investment – not in money, not in time, nor in any resource. The investment is significant, and the commitment is high. It is, however, a most discerning and worthwhile investment, most important for the sustainable development of a healthy nation.

Diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and mental health are hovering over us as growing concerns, world-wide, yet in high degrees regionally. According to a study by Harvard University, over the next 20 years, non-communicable diseases will cost the global economy more than 30 trillion dollars.

Non-communicable diseases, lifestyle diseases, are reaching epidemic proportions and there is a critical need for solutions to address them. Not only are they putting a global burden on the economy, but they are also impacting quality of life.

While we cannot eliminate costs associated with treating non-communicable diseases nor their impact, we can certainly, more effectively, invest funding into research to reduce their burden long-term. But most importantly, it is about Dubai having a foundation, which serves as a catalyst for improving human lives.

It was three years ago that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed announced this Foundation.

At the moment, Al Jalila Foundation is establishing the UAE’s first independent multi-disciplinary biomedical research centre. The 200 million dirhams state-of-the-art centre will bring together leading scientists from around the world to address solutions in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and mental health. The potential is significant, and the implications are mind-blowing.

The Foundation has also achieved its first international research publication. It has awarded its first fellowship for medical research training to a promising Emirati, Dr. Shehab Al Ansari, to train at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the USA. Fifteen research seed grants have been awarded in the amount of 3.85 million dirhams.

The first international fellowship medical student research initiative was awarded to another one of our own rising up through the ranks in medicine, Dr. Ajlan Al Zaki at Pennsylvania University.

Most recently, just this past July, the Foundation launched the UAE's first medical research endowment, Al Warga. The foundation has also touched the lives of many people, young and old, who had lost all hope in living normal lives.

Three-year-old Hanah, from the Philippines, was born with meningitis at birth and was left deaf; however, following a cochlear implant, she can now hear.

Fifteen-year-old Suha, a Jordanian, a double amputee due to a traffic accident who received prosthetics, can now walk.

Eighty-year-old Hamdan, from Oman, who, following specialized spinal surgery, can also now walk.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has created a Foundation that has given research life. And tonight, we can all play a part in this miracle. We can make our mark, provide the tools and resources necessary that enable research efforts.

We can shed light on unanswered questions. Pioneer a new future. Be part of a narrative which may mean that our children do not have to accept the same – or worse – lottery odds of disease that we do. Invest in a world that sees more grandparents able to watch their grandchildren get married or graduate from university than ever before.

With research, we can open doors to new drugs, vaccines and medical devices. It may take time, but I invite you to imagine with me what, together, we can do to change our world. Because with your help, all this would be possible.

Medical research is the backbone to the future health of any nation; the pioneer is also the patriot, and the patriot is also a lover of family and humanity.

I see many good candidates to help forge the path to these new frontiers here in this room with us today. And our investments today, will be tomorrow’s wealth; they will strengthen our world – physically, economically, and environmentally.

The path has been laid out in front of us. It is now up to us to take the lead. It is as much about the journey as the outcome and, as you all know, immense satisfaction comes from the simple knowledge that we have done the most good we can.

So I ask you please to contribute to a worthy cause. Join us on perhaps the most important journey of a lifetime, a journey towards Research for Life.

Thank you.