The Vodafone Malta Foundation has donated €100,000 to RIDT for new technology to facilitate research into diseases prevalent among the Maltese.

The Vodafone Malta Foundation and the University of Malta signed the agreement to facilitate cutting edge research that explores the causes and treatments for diseases such as diabetes, asthma, thalassaemia and ALS.

The €100,000 project will see the development of a specialised interactive web portal and mobile app which will encourage and facilitate participation at the biobank and act as a link between the public, researchers and patients.

The funding will be made available through the Research Trust (RIDT) of the University of Malta. The research will be carried out at the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking of the University.

The biobank receives and stores high quality blood samples through which DNA is extracted and used to investigate important diseases. Certain types of conditions, such as diabetes and the blood disorder known as thalassaemia have, for some reason, a significantly higher incidence rate amongst the Maltese than among our European counterparts.

Research into the local population’s genetic make-up can help shed light on why the Maltese are more predisposed towards developing certain diseases. It can also help facilitate effective treatment.

However, this is heavily dependent on a vibrant, active and collaborative pool of people who donate their blood samples.

University rector Alfred Vella praised this collaboration between industry and academia. “The industry has a lot to contribute to the university, and likewise, a modern university should also be there for the industry."

Vodafone Malta Foundation Michel Macelli said the project, which is estimated to take two years to complete, has been selected as the Vodafone Malta Foundation’s ‘Hero’ or flagship project.

The scope of this programme is to harness the power of mobile technology to bring about social change by innovating through technology to deliver powerful, impactful projects that have a beneficial service to the community.

The portal will also make it possible to use sophisticated and flexible means of giving permission for the use of samples, where the participant remains in contact with the researchers at the biobank.

One of the projected features of the IT platform is an innovative metadata collecting mobile app which links to health data sensors so, with the permission of the participant, information about their physical condition such as their heart rate and exercise patterns can be processed and used by the research team along with their sample.

Up to 20,000 people in Malta alone could benefit from the work undertaken by the centre, while the model, if successful, could inform best practice in biobank governance and genetic research programmes.

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