Genomic researchers from Egypt visited the University of Exeter this month as part of a collaboration that aims to improve healthcare in Egypt and gain insight into both modern and ancient Egyptian genomics.

The Egyptian Genome Project aims to improve healthcare for all Egyptians by building a reference genome for a population that is significantly underrepresented in global genomic databases. The project may also uncover fascinating historical revelations as researchers will sequence and analyse the genomes of a cross section of Ancient Egyptian mummies.

The delegation of 15 Egyptian project leaders and researchers, who manage the Egyptian Genome Project, attended a development programme in Exeter from 10-13 July.

Genomics continues to transform our world in many ways, with applications spanning healthcare, forensics, agriculture, ancestry, and technology. The NHS in England is the first healthcare service in the world to offer whole genome sequencing as a part of routine care, and we support unique research resources such as UK Biobank.

The University of Exeter has a proud history of genomics research spanning three decades. Their collaborative research with the Royal Devon NHS Foundation University Trust (RDUH) has identified more than 85 new genetic causes and mechanisms of disease. This research has also underpinned the rapid whole genome sequencing service for children and babies suspected of having a genetic disease who now get a diagnosis within a week, which can be life-saving.  Led by RDUH working with the University of Exeter, the service is the only one of its kind in the world.

The University invested heavily in genomics, with multidisciplinary expertise in cutting-edge technologies and world-leading genomic research. The professional development programme at the University of Exeter included experiential training, fostered knowledge exchange with renowned UK researchers, and fortified relationships aimed to promote international collaboration and catalyse advancements in genomics research and innovation.

Dr Khaled Amer, CEO of the Egypt Center for Research and Regenerative Medicine, and Operational Leader of the Egyptian Genome Project said: “This visit has provided valuable insights and significantly increased the capacities of our personnel. We are delighted with the outcomes of our collaboration thus far and look forward to future engagement with our UK colleagues.”

Lead experts and consultants for the capacity-building project Professor Anna Murray, of the University of Exeter said: “It was an honour to host this delegation and expand our relationships. It is impressive and encouraging to experience the enthusiasm and aptitude displayed by these individuals. We look forward to seeing the progress that will follow this visit and have no doubt that the work of the Egyptian Genome Project will have a positive impact on patient care.”

The delegation visit is part of a larger project facilitated through the collaboration of the University of Exeter, the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research, the Egypt Center for Research and Regenerative Medicine, the Academy of Scientific Research & Technology, and Knowledge E.