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Communications of the ACM

Arab World special section: Big trends

Biomedical Computing in the Arab World: Unlocking the Potential of a Growing Research Community

key and map of Saudi Arabia, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates

Health challenges represent one of the long-standing issues in the Arab region that hinder its ability to develop. Prevalence of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis and cancer among many others has contributed to the deteriorated health status across the region leading to lower life expectancy compared to other regions. For instance, the average life expectancy in the Arab world is approximately 70 years, which is at least 10 years lower than most high-income countries.2 Among many directions of healthcare development across the region, biomedical computing research represents one main arm of tackling health challenges. Advances in computational technologies have enabled the emergence of biomedical computing as one of the most influential research areas worldwide. In recent years, life sciences have witnessed an explosion in the volumes of biomedical data generated by high-throughput technologies and other sources. The enormity of volumes and interdependence in biomedical data pose great analytical challenges in the quest to infer deeply hidden knowledge buried under this complexity. As such, the biomedical computing research community in the Arab world has been actively contributing to the efforts that tackle long-standing biomedical challenges.

Research in biomedical computing in the region dates back to mid-1970s with the establishment of the Systems and Biomedical Engineering department at Cairo University in Egypt. Since then, the number of related programs has steadily increased and researchers from different disciplines have developed interest in biomedical computing applications. Despite the limited available resources, researchers from the Arab region have made over the years strong contributions to the rapid advances that occur in the field of biomedical computing. Recent successful efforts by researchers across the region have been evident in three broad areas of biomedical computing; namely, biomedical imaging, biomedical signal analysis and bioinformatics. These efforts have materialized in advancing a diverse spectrum of bio-medical computing applications, as well as stimulating clear commercial interest.


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