Saudi students’ breakthrough in fight against deadly livestock disease

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Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib (L) and Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari. (Supplied)
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The two Saudi researchers, Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari (right) and Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib from Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz University. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 July 2022

Saudi students’ breakthrough in fight against deadly livestock disease

  • Patent awarded after two-year study into treatment for foot-and-mouth

RIYADH: Two Saudi undergraduate students have been awarded a patent for a breakthrough discovery that could revolutionize the fight against foot-and-mouth disease, the highly contagious viral illness that can devastate livestock herds and ruin farmers.

Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib and Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari from Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University were given the patent from the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property after discovering a chemical component isolated from the plant Peganum harmala, also known as wild rue or African rue, which is effective against the virus that causes the widely feared disease.

Dr. Ahmed  Suleiman Al Aliwi, Dean of the College of Pharmacy, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University. (Supplied)

Al-Mutib told Arab News that Maged Saad Abdel-Kader, professor of pharmacognosy at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, had urged the two students to identify a research proposal whose content would include plants with a common application in Saudi Arabia.

He said that the idea for the study came to him since Peganum harmala is widely used by livestock owners to treat foot-and-mouth, known colloquially as Abu-Hjae’er disease, which can cause significant economic losses to livestock owners and breeders.

Immunization offers the only protection against the disease. If herds become infected, they are treated with antibiotics and antipyretics, which do not destroy the virus but merely target the symptoms.

Dr. Maged Saad Abdel-Kader, professor of Pharmacognosy at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University. (Supplied)

Livestock owners have treated “cattle sickness” by soaking a large amount of Peganum harmala in water for at least a day, allowing the plant’s chemicals to dissolve, before it is given to cattle to drink.

The two students’ research to uncover the plant’s secret and identify its useful compounds began in 2019 under Abdel-Kader’s guidance.

Prof. Gamal Abdulhakim Soliman oversaw the partial analysis of the study in collaboration with Prof. Hesham Youssef Elzorba, vice dean of Cairo University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The research was carried out in stages, beginning with collecting the plant, then extracting and fragmenting it for different extracts, and finally sending it to the virology laboratory at the Armed Forces Hospital for Veterinary Medicine in Cairo.

A patent for "extraction and isolation of novel compound from Rhazya stricta active against Foot-and-mouth disease virus Picornavirus" to the two saudi researchers ِA Saudi researcher in Pharmacognosy Fahad Shaya Al-Mutib and Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari. (Supplied)

Abdel-Kader said that the two students faced significant challenges, including finding a laboratory that was able to conduct experiments on the target virus.

The other challenge was time, since transferring samples to Egypt and waiting for results was a lengthy process. However, all went smoothly.

“I normally do not reject any student’s suggestion, but I always urge them to discuss their ideas with me,” he said. “The two most common reasons for rejecting a study topic are that the requisite experiments cannot be completed or that the same research has previously been conducted.”

Ahmed Suleiman Al-Aliwi, dean of the College of Pharmacy at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, said: “The university seeks to promote the research process by providing financial and research support through the development of research programs. It also encourages researchers to publish in international scientific journals and enables researchers to focus on applied research that the world requires.”

He said that the college’s interest in researchers manifests itself in a variety of ways, including “hosting periodic workshops and forming research groups of mutual interest to spark ideas and strengthen research.”

According to Al-Dosari, the biggest challenge facing the two researchers was the employment of several separation methods and the purifying process, “but the team was able to separate seven compounds.”

The structural makeup of the separated compounds was examined using spectroscopic and chemical methods, and what stood out was the presence of two compounds with a complicated structure.

“We used to work in the drug laboratory after school hours and sometimes until after midnight, including on the annual holiday, and in Ramadan for five to six hours a day during the fasting period,” Al-Dosari said.

The two students continued to do research until December 2020, more than five months after graduating.

The pure compounds were tested again on the foot-and-mouth virus. “The most effective was a novel chemical that had never been discovered before, neither from a natural nor synthetic source,” Al-Dosari said.

Working with Abdel-Kader “was a dream come true,” the two students agreed, as the Egyptian academic offered a wealth of experience in scientific research and inventions in the field of drugs.

Abdel-Kader said that he was eager for the students to master all stages of research conducted in the college’s laboratories — from extracting and purifying compounds to identifying their composition.

Al-Dosari said: “The opinion of friends and relatives, as well as their good comments, made us believe that what we had done was amazing and worth the effort and tiredness, and it undoubtedly gave us a moral boost for future creativity in the field of study.”

Al-Mutib added: “Thank God after two years of effort, we are reaping the rewards. We were graduate students who became researchers and inventors.”

Al-Dosari, who is currently working as a marketing representative for Hikma Pharmaceuticals, is a final-year master’s student in pharmacognosy at King Saud University and hopes to get a doctorate in pharmacognosy and join the department’s faculty.

Al-Mutib is a quality controller at Hikma — Jazeera Pharmaceutical Industries, and intends to pursue his graduate education in quality control and business management.

Abdel-Kader hopes to communicate with pharmaceutical companies to deliver the compound or extract as a medicine that can be marketed in the Kingdom and abroad.

Al-Aliwi said that the university’s goal is “to actively engage with stakeholders, including the celebration of joint cooperation agreements with relevant universities and entities to develop the research process and benefit from the human resource represented by distinguished researchers and faculty members to provide consultations and support from both sides to align with the Saudi vision, enhance investment and diversify economy.”

Jobs boost for Saudi citizens in engineering roles

Updated 20 July 2024

Jobs boost for Saudi citizens in engineering roles

  • The new policy comes into effect on July 21 will affect private sector companies employing five or more workers in engineering roles

RIYADH: Employment of Saudi citizens in the engineering sector is set to increase under plans announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

In a joint initiative with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, the ministry will implement a 25 percent localization quota for engineering professions, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The new policy comes into effect on July 21 will affect private sector companies employing five or more workers in engineering roles.

The initiative is part of the Kingdom’s broader strategy to create more attractive and productive job opportunities for Saudi nationals across the country.

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing will take charge of monitoring and implementing the policy.

According to SPA, the ministry aims to ensure that the localization efforts align with labor market demands and the specifics of engineering specializations.

To support this transition, the government is offering a range of incentives and support programs to private sector establishments. These include support for recruitment, candidate search, necessary training and qualification, employment, and long-term employment stability.

Companies complying with the new regulations will also gain priority access to various localization support programs and employment initiatives through the Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF).

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has published a detailed procedural guide on its website, outlining the localization process, affected professions, and required quotas. Officials have stressed the importance of adherence to these new regulations, warning that non-compliant establishments will face legal consequences.

Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 

Updated 20 July 2024

Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 

  • Competition open to original works in Arabic, and all nationalities and ages will be eligible

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has launched an award for fiction writing, with winners sharing total prizemoney of $690,000 and successful works to be adapted into film.

Unveiling the Golden Pen Award for Novels on Saturday, Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said that the competition will benefit Arab novelists and the regional film industry.

The competition will be open to original works in Arabic, and all nationalities and ages will be eligible.

In a post on social media platform X, Alalshikh said that the first and second-place winners of the grand prize will be awarded $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, with their works being adapted into films produced by the GEA.

The third place winner will receive $30,000.

Additionally, the Novel Tracks Awards will grant $25,000 each to the best novels in categories such as romance, thriller, mystery, comedy, action, fantasy, investigative, horror, and historical fiction.

Prizes for the Best Screenplay Adapted from a Literary Work will also be awarded, with $100,000 for first place, $50,000 for second, and $30,000 for third. The Best Translated Novel Award will offer $100,000, while the Audience Award, determined through a dedicated electronic voting platform, will provide $30,000.

Alalshikh said that the main judging panel will consist of three novelists, three screenwriters, and three producers from the Arab world, along with an auxiliary committee for the initial screening stage.

Competition winners will be announced at a grand awards ceremony to be broadcast on television and various platforms.

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

Updated 20 July 2024

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

  • KSGAAL is hosting Arabic Language Month for Indian students and teachers
  • Initiative is in line with Human Capability Development Program of Vision 2030

NEW DELHI: India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language in the wake of growing commercial exchanges with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s top linguistic institution has said, as it conducted a series of programs for Indian scholars and learners.

Students and lecturers from the Indian universities and colleges that teach Arabic courses are taking part in training sessions, workshops and competitions as part of the Arabic Language Month organized by the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language.

The event, which aims to develop and improve the teaching of Arabic for non-native speakers in the world’s most populous nation, began online in late June and runs until July 26.

The main host is Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, which has been teaching Arabic for decades.

“India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language, driven by a growing demand for learning Arabic within its vast and diverse human, linguistic and cultural landscape,” KSGAAL Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Washmi told Arab News on Friday.

“Despite India’s diverse multilingual landscape, there is a growing interest in learning Arabic, fueled by increasing commercial activities and cultural exchanges.”

The Arabic Language Month in India features a range of educational activities led by Saudi linguists affiliated with the KSGAAL — from competitions and workshops to enhance Arabic language teaching curricula at different educational institutions, to specialized sessions for instructors to familiarize them with the most recent teaching methodology.

“These activities are conducted in different educational institutions across India, with the primary goal of fostering stronger relationships with Indian universities that have an interest in teaching Arabic,” Al-Washmi said.

“Moreover, the Arabic Language Month serves as a platform to highlight the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts in promoting and teaching the Arabic language through innovative methods. This initiative is in line with the objectives of the Human Capability Development Program, a key component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

Upholding and promoting the Arabic language is part of the Vision 2030 transformation strategy, which also focuses on the development of skills and academia.

“The program also focuses on enhancing the teaching skills of Arabic language educators, both locally and globally, particularly in non-native speaking communities,” Al-Washmi said.

“These initiatives include supporting modern activities for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, enhancing the teaching competencies of instructors, and organizing scientific competitions to discover and encourage individuals with linguistic talents.”

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

Updated 20 July 2024

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed 25,000 bags of bread in Akkar Governorate and Miniyeh District in Lebanon.

The distribution comes as part of KSrelief’s Al-Amal Charitable Bakery project to support Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, and the host community living in northern Lebanon, benefiting 125,000 individuals.

KSrelief continues to distribute bread to refugee families in northern Lebanon. (SPA)

Elsewhere, KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10.

During the program, rolled out in cooperation with the Albasar International Foundation, KSrelief's volunteer medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful eye surgeries.

KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10. (SPA)


Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Updated 20 July 2024

Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

  • Partnership aims to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states
  • Special attention will be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they have equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields

PARIS: Mawhiba, an endowment organization that aims to nurture talented Saudi students in the scientific field, has signed a partnership agreement with UNESCO to foster science, technology, engineering and mathematics education across Arab countries.

The agreement was signed on July 19 in Paris by Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Subail, Mawhiba deputy secretary-general for business development and communication, and Lidia Arthur Brito, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for natural sciences, Mawhiba said in a news release carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Mawhiba is the short name for the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, which was organized in 1999 in honor of Saudi Arabia’s founding king.

Brito said that the partnership aimed to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states, ”focusing on refining their scientific knowledge, nurturing creativity, and fostering critical thinking.”

It sought ”to provide young people with the necessary knowledge and capabilities and to motivate them to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to meet global challenges,” she said.

Brito said that the experience would help in exchanging these experiences globally, adding that ”there is potential for expanding these efforts to Africa and other parts of the world to promote sustainable development goals.”

Special attention would be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they had equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields, she said.

Mawhiba has identified 97,000 gifted students out of more than 300,000 tested in more than 100 cities and villages across the Kingdom. Its sponsorship of more than 54,000 students and its participation in international science competitions for talented youth has reaped global recognition for the Kingdom. 

Saudi students have so far won more than 397 medals and prizes in these competitions, developed in excess of 16,000 ideas, acquired 15 patents, and more than 1,000 Saudi students were accepted in the world’s top 50 prestigious universities in distinguished disciplines that met the needs of national development plans, the SPA report said.

Mawhiba Secretary-General Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa emphasized the shared commitment to empowering young Arab minds and advancing sustainable development through education and innovation. She underscored the importance of this collaboration within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.

Central to the initiative is the MAWHIBA-UNESCO Online STEM Oasis, which will serve as a global platform for local, national and regional science and engineering fairs. 

The partnership will focus on training Arab science teachers to lead research and guide students in scientific projects, thereby enhancing the overall quality of STEM education, the Mawhiba news release said.

“Mawhiba is committed to expanding the use of the UNESCO Open Science Portal and the UNESCO Science-2-Innovation Network to build the capacity of young scientists and women in STEM education globally.

“Over the past three years, Mawhiba has supported 839 students from Arab states through enriching STEM programs, setting a precedent for regional cooperation and development in STEM education,” it added.

By joining forces with UNESCO, Mawhiba aims to amplify its ability to address global challenges such as climate change, health crises and technological disruptions, it said.