Technology only a means, not a solution to healthcare, says biology professor

Panelists participate in the session on innovations in precision healthcare of the Investopia 2023 in Dubai on March 3, 2023. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 March 2023

Technology only a means, not a solution to healthcare, says biology professor

  • Severino: Healthcare sector witnessing urgent need for intelligence, imagination, creativity
  • Martino: Successful advancement requires academia, government and investors

ABU DHABI: Healthcare is still in an era of imprecision contrary to popular belief, Dr. Gianvito Martino, a professor of experimental biology, told Investopia 2023 on Friday.

Speaking during a session on innovations in precision healthcare, he said doctors and researchers must first understand the molecular mechanisms underlying disorders.

“We are understanding that nature has already solved a lot of mysteries because we are evolving as living organisms for 3.5 billion years,” said Martino.

“What we understood in the past years is that we have to copy what nature is already doing.”

Participating in the session was Dr. Michael Severino, CEO of Tessera Therapeutics, who claimed that one modern game-changer was the ability to study human disease in people rather than animals for better insight.

The necessary technologies did not exist in the past, which made it difficult to examine human subjects, he added.

Severino, who joined Tessera in 2022, brought more than two decades of biopharmaceutical leadership to the company.

He said studying human diseases coupled with expanding the notion of what therapeutics is necessary to keep advancing in the field.

“It’s not just a small molecule, or a therapeutic monoclonal antibody, we have genetic therapies that correct inborn errors in metabolism that can deliver new instructions to cells to keep building abilities we never had before,” explained Severino.

Elaborating on the topic, Martino said the world was entering a ‘natural medicine’ era with it’s current approaches.

“We are using this cutting and paste system, just looking into this, learning how this was done and trying to force the copy,” he said.

“This is what we are doing, and this is what the revolution of the 21st century, (it’s) called the century of biology for this reason.”

Severino said that methodologies have changed, and the healthcare sector is witnessing an urgent need for intelligence, imagination, and creativity in order to come up with revolutionary breakthroughs.

It takes courage to venture out into such projects because the path is never straightforward, he added.

Tessera Therapeutics focuses on advancing gene writing technology and envisions a future where diseases can be treated at their source through an optimal gene-writing system, which deliverers therapeutic instructions to the necessary tissue.

The company’s aim is to alter the human genome and develop precise, durable therapeutic change to cure even the most challenging genetic diseases.

Though there have been evident technological advancements in the healthcare sector, Martino believes that machines are not the solution.

“Technology should be a mean, it’s not the end and it’s not the goal,” he said.

Taking the conversation further, the experimental biology professor said successful advancement in the field requires a combination of academia, a government force, and investors.

Martino has co-authored more than 250 original articles and book chapters.

His scientific interests range from the elucidation of the pathogenic mechanisms of immune-mediated central nervous system disorders to the development of gene and stem cell-based therapies for the treatment of these disorders.

Investopia 2023, which ran from March 2-3, was held in Abu Dhabi, and addressed various topics affecting the global economy today.

The two-day event allowed experts from around the world to exchange knowledge, participate in seminars, and sign memorandums of understanding with local businesses and investors.

Where We Are Going Today: Pierre Herme Paris

Updated 22 February 2024

Where We Are Going Today: Pierre Herme Paris

Visitors to the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh can get a taste for luxury from more than just the decor and surroundings.

At Pierre Herme Paris they can sample pastries and sweets conceived by French pastry chef Herme, known as the “Picasso of pastry.”

Among the most popular desserts are French macarons, and vanille cakes infused with exotic vanilla cream from Tahiti, Mexico, and Madagascar.

Dacquoise biscuits are adorned with crunchy hazelnuts, hazelnut flakes, thin layers of milk chocolate, milk chocolate ganache, Chantilly cream, and several ice cream flavors, while the pink rose macarons from Isfahan, Iran are filled with rose petal cream and raspberries.

All the pastries are lovingly prepared in the hotel’s kitchens and showcased in museum- style class cabinets.

One of the things that  impressed me about Pierre Hermé Paris is that it is headed by the Executive Pastry Chef Steve Thiery from France, who joined the global pastry-making operations in 2019 after honing his talents for a decade and
a half in pastry kitchens from French Polynesia to France and Morocco.


‘Disgusted’ British fashion icon bins honor from late queen over UK’s Gaza stance

Updated 22 February 2024

‘Disgusted’ British fashion icon bins honor from late queen over UK’s Gaza stance

  • Katharine Hamnett: ‘I’m disgusted to be British for our role in genocide in Gaza’
  • She released a video saying her CBE ‘belongs in the dustbin’ along with PM, opposition leader

LONDON: British fashion designer Katharine Hamnett has renounced an honor she received from the late Queen Elizabeth II to protest against the UK government’s stance on Gaza.

Hamnett, 76, famed for pioneering the slogan T-shirt, was made a commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2011 in recognition of her influence on the fashion industry.

This week she released a short video clip showing her outside her front door, wearing a signature T-shirt with the words “Disgusted to be British” emblazoned on the front, throwing her CBE medal into a bin.

“I’m disgusted to be British for our role in genocide in Gaza,” she said. “This is my CBE. It belongs in the dustbin, with (UK Prime Minister Rishi) Sunak and (Labour leader Sir Keir) Starmer.”

Hamnett, who is noted for her political activism, released the clip ahead of a series of proposed motions in the House of Commons calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ solidifies Denis Villeneuve as a master storyteller

Updated 22 February 2024

Review: ‘Dune: Part Two’ solidifies Denis Villeneuve as a master storyteller

DUBAI: French Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve can rest easy as “Dune: Part Two” pulls off the most elusive of filmmaking wins: improving on the original movie with a sequel. A lot of it comes down to the fact that “Dune: Part One,” released in October 2021, utilized most of its 2 hours and 48 minutes of runtime to set up 2024’s sweeping spectacle of a conclusion to Frank Herbert’s first novel in the “Dune” series.

And what a spectacle it is. Not only is “Part Two” a sensorial treat in every possible way, but Villeneuve also injects the movie with an emotional verve and gravitas, as well as playfulness, that was drastically missing in the first, in comparison.

“Dune: Part Two” picks up on the heels of the first film, locating itself deep in the desert landscape of Arrakis (shot extensively in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter), where young Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) must earn the trust of the native Fremen tribes after his entire house was massacred by the Harkonens in a bloody coup.

While Fremen warrior Stilgar (Javier Bardem) is convinced Paul is the prophesized messiah come to save their world from the colonizing forces of Baron Harkonen (Stellan Skarsgard) and battle-hardened war-monger Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista), other Arrakis natives view the young noble with suspicion.


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As the battles between the Harkonnens and the Fremen play out in gigantic and awesome displays of fire power, Paul grapples with the consequences of his rising power as Muad’Dib and his need for vengeance, goaded by the growing occult influence of his mother, Lady Jessica, a powerful member of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.

There is also a budding romance between Paul and Chani (Zendaya), a Fremen fighter who is vocal about her distrust in prophecies, and wants her people to earn their freedom themselves, instead of relying on an outsider.

Zendaya as Fremen warrior Chani in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

High on the list of Paul’s hit list is Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken) for a reason that is made clear pretty early in the film, while his daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) serves as the audience’s entry point into the geopolitical nuances of “Part Two,” as she narrates the film.

Props go entirely to Villeneuve and writer Jon Spaihts for homing in on Herbert’s distaste for the Chosen One trope and dismantling the hero’s journey to reveal the greys that lie beneath what may initially seem like a very black-and-white story. Villeneuve also pulls on the religious threads of the story, ever so carefully, and the results are as mystical as they are cerebral.

Rebecca Ferguson as Reverend Mother Jessica in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

Meanwhile, cinematographer Greig Fraser is well on his way to collect his next Oscar with “Part Two” — the first instalment of the film won the Best Cinematography Academy Award in 2022 — as he levels up his craft in the sequel. Also, composer Hans Zimmer delivers a superior soundtrack that will stick with audiences long after they have left the theater.

As far as performances go, main players Chalamet and Zendaya turn in expected performances, but never really push the envelope. However, the supporting cast, including Fergusson, Bardem, Bautista and Josh Brolin, are superlative and seem to have remembered to have fun with their characters. Even newcomer Austin Butler as the psychopathic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is an absolute treat to behold.

Austin Butler plays Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in ‘Dune: Part Two.’ (Supplied)

While “Part Two” brings about a satisfying end to the events of the first book, the movie heavily hints at a third outing, and it would be a welcome one.

So if you have recently found yourself losing faith in blockbuster movies, “Dune: Part Two” is here to turn you back into a believer.

Comedian Russell Peters to hit the stage in Riyadh

Updated 22 February 2024

Comedian Russell Peters to hit the stage in Riyadh

RIYADH: Global comedy superstar Russell Peters will perform at Riyadh’s Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University on Feb. 24.

The show is being produced by Smile Entertainment and Live Nation Middle East.

“We’re really excited to host Russell back in Riyadh after a gap of over 10 years,” Peter Howarth-Lees, founder and CEO of Smile Entertainment, said.

Canadian comedian Peters will be joined on stage by US comedian Adam Hunter and DJ StartingFromScatch, who will kick off the show during Saudi Arabia’s Founding Day weekend.

Recently named one of the 50 best comics of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, Peters’ most notable tour to date was titled “The Deported World Tour.” It took place in over 40 cities over the course of 18 months and premiered as a stand-up special on Amazon Prime in 2020.

It is not Peters’ first time in the region — he performed in Abu Dhabi in 2023 and also performed in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla in February 2022, among other performances in the region.

Peters, who is of Anglo-Indian descent, was the first comedian to sell out Toronto’s Air Canada Center in 2007 and has also performed at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the Sydney Opera House and London’s O2 arena.

Peters hit the comedy scene when he was 19 and skyrocketed to global fame with CTV’s “Comedy Now,” a Canadian stand-up comedy show featuring on-stage comic routines by pro and amateur comedians.

Saudi artists create special commissions for Riyadh’s Diriyah Biennale

'Saudi Futurism' by Ahmed Mater and Armin Linke. (Photo by Marco Cappellletti, Courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale)
Updated 22 February 2024

Saudi artists create special commissions for Riyadh’s Diriyah Biennale

  • The works explore themes of renewal, cultural heritage and conservation
  • The second edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale runs from Feb. 20-May 24

RIYADH: The second Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, “After Rain,” features the work of 100 artists from more than 40 countries displayed in industrial warehouses in the JAX District of Riyadh. The theme of this year’s Biennale, curated by artistic director Ute Meta Bauer is all about renewal, rejuvenation and revitalization. Metaphorically, it can be applied to the rapid social and economic transformation the Kingdom is undergoing and the role art is playing in that change.

Among the dozens of artworks on show, some were newly produced by artists based in the Kingdom, including “Saudi Futurism,” an installation created by Ahmed Mater, one of the Kingdom’s most prominent artists, and Milan-born photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke. The two men travelled together across the country documenting historical, industrial and scientific sites, including the megaproject NEOM, a dairy farm, monumental buildings, the Shaheen supercomputer, Yamama Cement Factory and the colorful Diplomatic Club Heart Tent in Riyadh designed by Frei Otto. Visitors can peruse these images that merge Saudi Arabia’s past and select their own sequence of images to depict the rapid change the country is presently experiencing.

Jeddah-based Daniah Alsaleh’s “A Stone’s Palette” presents studies from her explorations of the archaeological sites of AlUla and Tayma, focusing particularly on carnelian stone beads produced in Tayma long ago, which, she explains, served as important social artifacts, used as both elements in rituals and as personal accessories.

Daniah Alsaleh. (Supplied)

“I learned they were sourced from the Indus Valley thousands of years ago,” Alsaleh tells Arab News. “They manufactured the beads in Tayma and then exported them to Mesopotamia. I went and got carnelian rock from India and created different pigments that I applied on these sketches, which are transfer photos of the excavation sites with my intervention using modern patterns and ornamentation.”

In his outdoor installation “The Whispers of Today Are Heard in the Garden of Tomorrow,” Al-Ahsa-based artist Mohammad Alfaraj has created sculptures from natural materials he found in the desert, including coiled palm leaves positioned on sticks placed in sand, which are complemented by photographs and painted murals on either wall of the wooden pavilion that encompasses his ‘garden.’

“Everything that is happening today has an echo in our future whether it is good or bad, especially the things that are not really prominent,” Alfaraj tells Arab News. “The installation consists of three parts: ‘Fossils of Time,’ made with photography and fabric — I really think that photographs, especially when they are printed, are fossils of a moment.”

Mohammed Alfaraj's 'The Whispers of Today Are Heard in the Garden of Tomorrow.' (Arab News/Rebecca Anne Proctor)

The second part is a mural called “Love is to Leave the Gates of Your Garden Ajar,” made from the charcoal of burnt palm trees. “What does it say when you use something that has been destroyed and you try and make something new from it?” he asks. “This is something that I want to emphasize: To build more than to destroy. This reflects a symbol of hope, even for the people of Palestine and for people living in any oppressed place. It is inspiring to see people use their resilience to build a new life.”

The third part consists of several new sculptures made from old palm leaves and covered in date syrup and gum Arabic topped with a protective resin that are stationed on metal plinths in the sand.

“I put them into these characters and try and let them have a continuation of their life,” Alfaraj explains. “They are monuments to a life that hasn’t been lived.”

The theme of memory is central to Saudi-based Yemeni artist Sara Abdu’s poignant biennale contribution “Now That I Have Lost You in My Dreams Where Do We Meet?”

Sara Abdu's 'Now That I Have Lost You in My Dreams Where Do We Meet' (Photo by Marco Cappellletti, Courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation)

“It is inspired by dreams I used to have,” Abdu tells Arab News. “When I think about those dreams, those intangible spaces, they offer us an opportunity to create new memories. The artwork negotiates our relationship with memory. It looks at time as this thing that determines the death of memories and all that is ephemeral.

“The materials are inspired by the Islamic funeral ritual of washing the deceased,” she continues. “I used two main ingredients: sidr powder and camphor crystals. For me, these two ingredients are the smell of death.”

The installation is constructed in a way, explains Abdu, that it looks like it is “trapping and immortalizing memories. Allowing us to exist with them in the same time and space.”

She continues: “The title of the work is very present in the space and revolves around the idea of repetition, leaving the viewer to ask how the answer to that question would leave us feeling in return.”