"--IANS/WAM"
Abu Dhabi, July 17 (IANS/WAM) Plans to open the world's first centre dedicated to paediatric research into rare diseases are to become a reality thanks to an over $100 million gift from a leader of the UAE.

Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates, as well as chairwoman of the General Women's Union, supreme chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, and president of the Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood, has announced the donation of 60 million pounds ($102.7 million) to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), one of the world's leading paediatric hospitals, it was reported Wednesday.

The gift is a gesture of gratitude to GOSH for the care the hospital has provided to sick children from around the world, including more than 750 children from the UAE who have been patients at GOSH over the past four years alone.

These patients are among the 220,000 visits that GOSH has every year, treating children from more than 95 countries worldwide.

The most important work that we can undertake as a global society is to improve the health of future generations so that communities can thrive and grow, Sheikha Fatima was Wednesday quoted as saying.

To reach this goal, we must form collaborative partnerships that have the potential to benefit all children. We are honoured to support the mission and work of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

In keeping with the legacy of the Sheikh Zayed, who had a profound and active interest in global issues affecting the well-being of children, the gift is also in recognition of GOSH's ability to lead ground-breaking research, and discover more effective treatments and cures for children with rare diseases from around the world.

The centre is a partnership between GOSH, University College London (UCL) and the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. The building, the site of which is adjacent to the hospital and the UCL Institute of Child Health, is set to bring hundreds of clinicians and researchers together where they will see patients and access state-of-the-art laboratory facilities under one roof.

Rare diseases represent a considerable health burden globally as taken together they affect one in 17 people at some stage of their lives.

They are particularly prevalent in children and nearly one third of the children affected will die before their fifth birthday.

This gift is truly transformative and we are incredibly grateful. There is an urgent and compelling case to use our expertise and harness the recent advances in science and technology to accelerate the discovery of new treatments and cures in this area, Baroness Blackstone, chair of GOSH, said

According Michael Arthur, UCL President and Provost, the new centre centre will enable a step change in research.

In particular it will drive our experts to progress new and personalised ways to diagnose and treat these children by further developing gene and cell therapies and manufacturing increasingly complex medical devices, he said.

The centre, expected to open in 2018, will be built on a plot of land on Guilford Street in London.

It is anticipated that the centre will house approximately 400 academics and clinical staff and feature more than 150 laboratory bench positions.

The total cost of the centre is expected to be 90 million pounds. The full cost has been met by 20 million pounds of fundraising income from Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity and a 10 million-pound grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Research Partnership Investment Fund.

--IANS/WAM

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