By Elizabeth Broomhall
Dr Hayat Sindi wants to ease the process of diagnosing organ, bone and tissue diseases
A female medical researcher from Saudi Arabia is planning to develop a portable MRI scanner in a bid to ease the process of diagnosing organ, bone and tissue diseases for people in the Arab world.
Dr Hayat Sindi, who was recently ranked number nine on the CEO Middle East list of most powerful Arab women, wants to make MRI scanning simple and cheap, particularly for older patients and those who have joint disorders.
“I am writing the pattern at the moment,” she told Arabian Business in an interview. “There are so many people with arthritis and older people who struggle to get up on to the bed [to be scanned], and they are in a lot of pain. Especially if they don’t speak English. It can be very uncomfortable.”
Most MRI scans take around 15-20 minutes to complete, and can be expensive. Sindi said her product aims to make the process more efficient, and should be available within three years.
“It [MRI scanning] also takes a long time. This one is [very quick]. And it will be very cheap. Usually it takes an average of four-five years [to develop], or six if it’s complicated. But something like this it should take around three years.”
Hayat Sindi, whose research into diagnostics and biotechnology is internationally recognised, is an advocate of affordable medicine.
She began her career in the UK after acquiring a BSc degree in pharmacology from Kings College in London and a PhD in biotechnology from Cambridge University, for which she was awarded a scholarship.
As the first female in Gulf to gain such qualifications, her first step was to found Sonoptix Technology with Saudi seed funding. Here she developed a tool capable of cheaply diagnosing breast cancer early on through its ability to detect single molecules.
In 2006, Sindi was invited by Harvard University professor George Whiteside to join him and his team as a visiting scholar in Boston, and has since played a pivotal role in founding the non-for-profit company Diagnostics For All (DFA).
The organisation, which won business competitions at both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has since combined biotechnology and diagnostics research to create a new product able of detecting liver failure, which will be rolled out in third world countries.
Sindi said the product was due to be launched in one of these countries very soon.
“We are targeting developing countries first, and countries where patients have suffered from drugs taken for HIV and tuberculosis. That’s where you are going to make a difference, because they [often] suffer with liver failure.
“I cannot say which country, [there are] three possible countries, but I cannot say which one.”
Sindi has also recently begun another new venture, which involves helping young Arab scientists with their careers.
The NGO, named the Institution of imagination and Ingenuity, aims to give opportunities to young local scholars by sponsoring their inventions, assisting them with their business plans and providing them with mentors.
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