UKLTH and AUB to fund diabetes solution

UK Lebanon Tech Hub (UKLTH) announced today that it will fund the study and development of Ediamond (electromagnetic diabetes monitoring apparatus): a one of its type non-invasive blood glucose-monitoring apparatus, which is being developed by the Maroun Semaan faculty of engineering and structure and the faculty of medicine at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

The venture was agreed at a formal signing ceremony on Wednesday May 17, which was attended by H.E. Nicolas Sehnaoui, chairman of the board of this UKLTH, Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, president of AUB and Dr. Mohamed Harajli, provost of AUB, in addition to AUB deans of medicine and engineering and structure, along with senior executives.    

Ediamond is a continuous glucose monitoring wearable apparatus which will allow diabetic patients to check their sugar levels without having to come in contact with their blood stream, i.e. through traditional methods such as repeatedly pricking their finger with a needle during the day. The lead researchers of Ediamond  are Dr. Joseph Costantine and Dr. Rouwaida Kanj in the Maroun Semaan faculty of architecture and engineering, and Dr. Assaad Eid in the faculty of medicine.  

“The goal of this collaboration is to create a one of its type non-invasive blood sugar monitoring device that can make monitoring as simple as checking the time of day,” explained Sehnaoui in an announcement published today.

“With 15 percent of the planet’s population suffering from diabetes we consider this apparatus, which utilizes advanced electromagnetic theory, could make a profound difference to the lives of hundreds of millions of people. We expect, in particular, to enable those patients that lack diabetes control capabilities.”

President Khuri highlighted the importance of universities as centers of study for innovation and technology startups. “Among the most effective ways to do business is to have the first notions come out from the academic institutions,” he explained. “If you take a look in Silicon Valley, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, the majority of the companies have intimate ties with good universities.”  

The collaboration between the UKLTH and AUB shows UKLTH’s commitment to encouraging applied research projects through the newly set up International Research Centre (IRC).

The IRC was set up to play a key role in boosting investment in R&D in Lebanon and the wider MENA region, in particular by developing links between universities and entrepreneurs. Arab nations still lag behind other knowledge economies in terms of investment in R&D. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Arab nations just allocated a maximum of 0.7 percent of their GDP to R&D whilst EU nations allocated up to 3.2 percent and Japan allocated 3.6 percent.

However, the UKLTH considers Lebanon has great capacity to develop a world leading knowledge economy from higher investment in R&D. Lebanon ranks fourth from 144 countries in science and mathematics instruction based on the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report. Also, over 11 percent of the student population study while nine percent study information and computer technology engineering. This has lead to Lebanon with the highest number of engineers per capita in the world.

Lebanon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is developing fast, which is demonstrated by Lebanon ICT industry’s eight per cent annual growth over the previous five decades and the expansion of this market to $400 million by 2015, according to a recent report from the UK Lebanon Tech Hub. This has helped position Lebanon in the Top 20 entrepreneurial nations of the planet in 2015 (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). At the exact same time, Lebanon has several universities with dedicated research policies. According to the QS University Rankings, Lebanon had three universities in the top 20 universities of the Arab region, including the American University of Beirut, whose Faculties of Engineering and medication and Architecture are ranked among the top in the MENA region.

Sehnaoui also emphasized how this partnership with AUB is a superb platform for further collaborations. He added:

“We’d love to create a direct connection between the UKLTH and AUB by connecting our start-ups with AUB students. This will allow the students to obtain first-hand knowledge of life and hopefully spark their internal entrepreneur. It will also benefit our startups by providing interns to them to encourage their efforts.

“We’d also like to create a simple incentive programme for professors from all over the world to visit AUB as adjunct professors. Part of this programme will include having the ability to sit on the board of directors of our startups to offer advice. This can benefit both parties as it will provide great global expertise for the visiting professors, and our start-ups are going to have the benefit of engaging in board meetings.”

Sehnaoui also shared with his natural optimism that Lebanon will become a technological hub a few years later on, stating that he considers in the capacities of the Lebanese people in terms of creation and innovation.  

“It’s all about the will and the passion, and I am very passionate about this,” he explained. “We are living in fantastic times due to the exponential development of Information Technology, which opens great possibilities for R&D. We reside in excellent times, we are excellent people, and AUB is a fantastic university, thus we can create fantastic things.”

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