Center for Biotechnology (KUCEB)

Khalifa University Center of Excellence in Biotechnology (KUCEB)

Khalifa University’s Center for Biotechnology is concentrating on applying genomics to human health, disease and medicine as it applies to individuals of Arab descent with a vision in achieving excellence in research.

KUSTAR’s mission for its Center for Biotechnology is to improve our understanding of disease to enable clinicians to promote, protect and preserve the wellbeing of our families in our communities.
Dr. Habiba Alsafar, KUCEB Director 

Khalifa University's Center of Excellence in Biotechnology is working on three broad areas of health:

  • Metabolic diseases (ie Diabetes, Coronary heart disease)
  • Cancer, focusing mainly childhood cancers 
  • Mental disorders

Contact Us

Dr. Habiba Al Safar

Khalifa University Center for Biotechnology
Room: 116, F Building, Khalifa University Abu Dhabi, U.A.E
Phone: +971 (0)2 401 8109

Dr. Habiba Al Safar
Dr. Kinda Khalaf Dr. Naoufel Werghi
Dr. Hassan Al Muhairi  
Visiting faculty
Dr. Guan Tay Dr. Gart Hulse
Dr. Unini Odama  
Dr. Sarah Chehadeh Dr. Aurelie Mawart
Dr. Haitham Alangari  
Graduate students
Mariam Alali Hiba Alblooshi
Aamer Alshehhi Wafa Altayyari
Rebecca Jones Osamah Alhamoudi
Dr. Sadia Shamim Monica Fahmy
Sarah Sahloul  

KUCEB's research themes are metabolic diseases, cancer, and mental disorders.

At the moment, most of our work focuses on metabolic diseases. We're currently working on the following projects: 

  • The 1,000 Arab Genome Project: Characterizing the Genome of Ethnic Groups in Arabia.
  • A genome wide screen for susceptibility genes to Type 2 Diabetes with cardiovascular complication among Arab in UAE Population.
  • Genetic Polymorphism relevant genes In Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus In Arabs Residing In UAE.
  • Genetic Variants and association of Vitamin D deficiency with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Among UAE Nationals.
  • Improved HLA matching for Bone Marrow Transplantation using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Technology.
  • The identification of genetic markers that predispose Individuals of Middle Eastern descent to substance use disorder.

Recent Publications 

  • Ali O, Jones RJ, Tay GK, Alsafar H, Hadi S. Population genetics data for 21 autosomal STR loci for United Arab Emirates (UAE) population using next generation multiplex STR kit. Forensic Sci Int Gen 2015;19:190-1.
  • Alsafar H, A. H, Almazrouei S, Kamal W, Afandi B, Rais N. Association of the genetic polymorphisms in transcription factor 7-like 2 and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors-γ2 with type 2 diabetes mellitus and its interaction with obesity status in Emirati population. J Diabetes Res 2015;2015:1-8.
  • Alsafar H, Hassoun A, Almazrouei S, al e. Association of angiotension converting enzyme insertion-deletion polymorphism with hypertension in Emiratis with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and its interaction with obesity status. Disease Markers 2015;2015:1-7.
  • Lukman S, Alsafar H, Lee S, Sim K. Harnessing structural data of insulin and insulin receptor for therapeutic designs. Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism 2015;In Press.
  • Osman A, Alsafar H, Tay G, Theyab J, Mubasher M, al e. Autosomal Short Tandem Repeat (STR) variation based on 15 loci in a population from the Central Region (Riyadh Province) of Saudi Arabia. J Forensic Res 2015;6:267.
  • Osman E, Al Anouti F, El ghazali G, Haq A, Mirgani R, Al Safar H. Frequency of rs731236 (Taql), rs2228570 (Fok1) of Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) gene in Emirati healthy population. Meta Gene 2015;6:49-52.
  • Witzel I-I, Jelinek H, Khalaf K, Lee S, Khandoker A, Alsafar H. Identifying common genetic risk factors of diabetic neuropathies. Front Endocrinol 2015;6:88.

Khalifa University’s Center for Biotechnology is equipped with a state of art technology which includes DNA analysis capabilities using the following:

  • Next Generation Sequencer (Illumina NEXTSeq 500, USA)
  • Quantitative Real time PCR ViiA 7TM  (Applied Biosystems, USA)
  • Sanger Sequencer 3500 (Applied Biosystems, USA)

The Center for Biotechnology is also the home of the biobank that is the “Emirates Family Registry”.

  • Characterisation of susceptibility MHC haplotypes for Type 1 Diabetes using Arabian Trios, 2016 (KUIRF L1) 
  • The 1000 Arab Genome project: Characterising the Genome of Ethnic Groups in Arabia, 2016 (KUIRF L2) 
  • Obesity in the UAE Youth from OMICs to Function: Towards the Early Prediction of Associated Chronic Diseases, 2016 (ADEC) 
  • Improved HLA matching for bone marrow transplantation using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology, 2016 (Al Jalila Foundation)

Guest speaker engagements 

As one of the most prominent women in science in the UAE and as a leading diabetes researcher, Dr. Habiba Al Safar, KUCEB's Director, often speaks at various events around the world. In addition to regular panel discussion slots at universities and conferences, Dr. Habiba recently spoke at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the first genome-wide association study for Type 2 Diabetes. In March 2016, she also gave a three-minute speech at UNESCO in Paris to present the KUCEB research. 

Healthy Heart Day 

In April 2016, staff, faculty and students at Khalifa University were able to have a medical screening thanks to an event organised by KUCEB. The screening included a cholestoral and BMI check and a short consultation with a medical professional, with a focus on cardiovascular health. 

KUCEB Open House

In November 2015, KUCEB held an open house event as part of activities surrounding Innovation Week. The event was an opportunity for KUCEB to showcase its projects and research, and how those projects contribute towards the innovation and development agenda within the UAE. 

Academic Collaborators
Manipal UniversityNewcastle University The University of Western AustraliaUCLAN  
Non Academic Collaborators

ABu Dhabi Police Dubai Health Authority Mafraq Hospital NRC

National Research Foundation  

Internship/independent study opportunities

KUCEB is inviting applications from national and international students who wish to undertake a research internship for up to three months on the following topics: 

  • Identification of the disease progression and its multi-organ complications via HRV and genetic marker 
  • Identification and integration of the biomechnical and postural markers of the diabetic foot with genetic parameters 

To be considered, students must possess an interest in exploring ideas to integrate new technological tools and techniques with biomedical applications. There is one Biomedical Engineering student place and one Electrical and Computer Engineering student place open for each project. 

To register your interest, please send a complete CV to