Khalifa University’s Center for Biotechnology Receives DoH License for On-Campus COVID-19 Testing Facilities

18 Oct 2020

Khalifa University Adds Routine COVID-19 Testing to Its List of Viral Tracking Capabilities to Assist in Mitigating the Spread of Disease  


Khalifa University announced that its Center for Biotechnology (BTC) has been licensed by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH) to serve as an official COVID-19 test center.  The service is linked to Malaffi, a centralized database of real-time public health information, and to the Alhosn app, the official COVID-19 results and contact tracing app for the UAE.


Khalifa University has thus become the first university in the UAE to open an on-campus COVID-19 testing center for its students and employees, in line with its utmost priority on health and safety. Since the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, research teams at the university have been working on diverse ways to assist with tracking and mitigating the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Researchers at the BTC have developed a range of competencies including sewage testing to gauge the level of infection in community groups, validating viral testing kits and genome sequencing to track the source and spread of viral infections. 


For some time, the BTC has been conducting COVID-19 tests for research purposes and the license approved by DoH means that it can now offer a routine diagnostic service and another testing center is now available to assist health authorities manage the pandemic. The BTC testing center will routinely report to the DoH operations center. The BTC has now upgraded its laboratories to include a routine diagnostic arm, to further increase the nation’s testing capacity, if required. The BTC has already passed the proficiency test by the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council.


Dr. Ahmed Al Shoaibi, Senior Vice-President, Academic and Student Services, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “We are proud to be the first university in the UAE to open an on-campus COVID-19 testing facility for our students and employees, which reflects our highest priority on health and safety. In addition to implementing the hybrid learning system and taking adequate measures to ensure the safety and health of students, without compromising the quality of education and research, Khalifa University also places significant emphasis on their overall academic and individual development, so that they evolve into full-fledged professionals in science, technology and engineering areas. At the same time, Khalifa University and its research centers, have remained at the forefront in tackling the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also a key part of our strategy to move research projects to relevant services that aim to contribute to the joint efforts of government and private stakeholders towards restricting further spread of the virus. We hope, as the official testing center, the BTC will offer testing for the community and increase UAE’s testing capacity.” 


The BTC team which works with clinical scientists, medical technologists and pathologists, has quickly expanded the capabilities of its laboratories to accommodate a routine diagnostics service. In order to act as an official COVID-19 testing center, it had to fulfill the full requirements imposed by the Abu Dhabi DoH.


Dr. Habiba Alsafar, Director, BTC, said: “The center has a-state-of-the-art molecular genetic laboratory which spans every basic competency from DNA and RNA extraction to next generation sequencing. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the BTC laboratory has had to pivot very quickly and add two arms to its research capability, namely diagnostics and manufacturing services. These capabilities give decision-makers a string of competencies that they can call on to manage the current and future disease outbreaks. There is definitely room to grow and include more and diverse testing capabilities in the future.  We hope this will allow us to respond quicker in the future and reduce the impact of new events.” 


Dr. Alsafar is already leading a multidisciplinary team from Khalifa University to work with universities across the globe and investigate how the COVID-19 virus, usually found in animals such as bats, has jumped to humans. Earlier, the BTC joined with its partners to successfully manufacture reagents for extraction of COVID-19 RNA, over the course of just two weeks, as part of its contribution to help the nation overcome the current impact of COVID-19.


Clarence Michael
English Editor Specialist
18 October 2020