Blood diseases represent a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Thalassemia, sickle cell disease and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase are all highly prevalent in the population. This problem represents a significant health concern in Saudi Arabia with sufferers experiencing serious developmental, physical and psychological problems. Patients and their families suffer considerable financial burden in coping with these medical conditions. In the Western world, blood cancers such as leukemias, lymphomas and myeloma represent up to 15% of all cancers and their incidence is rising. While accurate incidence figures for these illnesses are not available, the clinical experience suggests a similar prevalence in the Al-Ahssa region. Collectively, blood-related diseases are responsible for significant morbidity, loss of productivity and mortality in the Eastern Province.
Recognizing the importance and growing complexities of blood diseases, centers of excellence dealing with these conditions have been developed in many cities throughout the world. An example of such a center is the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, which evolved on the foundation of a strong clinical program backed by successful research productivity. Another center of excellence in sickle cell anemia was established in Boston at Boston University School of Medicine. Again, this center was founded on a strong clinical program backed by successful research productivity. The proposed center will focus its research on enhancing the understanding of haemoglobinopathies and their management. The development and growth of the center will be staged and ongoing expansion will be dependent on receipt of additional funding. In collaboration with clinical colleagues at King Faisal Teaching Hospital in Al-Ahssa and other affiliated hospitals, translational research activities will be developed to achieve the stated aims. The center will also work closely with the pharmaceutical industry on new therapies in the haemoglobinopathy field. Any novel findings emanating from the basic research program will be commercialized in collaboration with biotechnology companies. Clinical trials in other facets of hematology will also be sought and implemented in collaboration with the clinical hematologists. The first step in establishing a Center of Excellence for Research in Hematological Diseases was possible through the Al Omran Scientific Chair as a result of the generous donation of Sheikh Omran Al Omran. The Scientific Chair has played a key role in research in hematological diseases in collaboration with international centers. The success of this is reflected by the numerous publications in high impact journals. The proposed center will create a competitive advantage by nurturing a highly skilled team of professional researchers and clinicians. The ongoing support of King Faisal University will ensure the future success of the center.