Habiba Alsafar

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Habiba Alsafar
Habiba Alsafar for UAE Gov.jpg
Habiba Alsafar in a 2015 UAE promotional video
Native name
حبيبة الصفار
Born1977 (age 41–42)
OccupationGeneticist, Academic
AwardsInternational L'Oréal-UNESCO Fellowship for Women in Science
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Western Australia (PhD), University of Liverpool (MSc), San Diego State University (BSc)[1]
ThesisThe EFR project: a collaborative network to establish an Arabian bio-bank resource to identify disease genes of indigenous populations (2011)
Academic work
WebsiteFaculty page

Habiba Sayeed Alsafar (Arabic: حبيبة الصفار‎ , born 1977) is an Emirati geneticist, biomedical engineer and academic. She is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Khalifa University and is the Director of the Khalifa University Biotechnology Center.

She is widely recognized for her work on identifying genetic risk factors for diabetes in the native Bedouin population of the United Arab Emirates, and was ranked 52nd amongst the "100 Most Powerful Arab Women" of 2015 by Arabian Business.[2] In 2016, she was awarded the International L'Oréal-UNESCO Fellowship for Women in Science.[3]

Education and training[edit]

Alsafar obtained a BSC in biochemistry at San Diego State University in 2002 and later a MSc in medical engineering at the University of Liverpool in 2003. She obtained her PhD in medical and forensic science from the University of Western Australia in 2010.[4] She worked as a forensics expert for the Dubai Police for a number of years, and later joined Khalifa University as an assistant professor of biomedical engineering in 2011.[5][6]


Alsafar's primary research interest concerns studying the genome of native Bedouin in the United Arab Emirates to identify specific genes that predispose to disease.[4] As part of her PhD thesis, she established the Emirates Family Registry in 2007 which eventually stored DNA samples from over 26,000 volunteers, 1700 of whom were ethnic Bedouins.[7][8] She conducted the first and largest Genome Wide Association Study of the Emirati Bedouin population which identified 5 genes unique to the Emirati population that was associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus, the strongest link being with the PRKD1 gene. Her findings were published in the International Journal of Diabetes and Metabolism in 2011.[8] According to Alsafar, it was the first such study that studied the genetic makeup of an Arab population with regards to diabetes. The UAE is said to have the second highest rates of diabetes worldwide.[9]

Awards and recognition[edit]

She was awarded the UAE First Honor medal in 2014 for her work on creating a genetic map for the prevention and early detection of diabetes from Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.[10] She also received the Emirates International Award of Genetic Diseases Prevention in the same year and received multiple grants from the Al Jalila Foundation.[11] In 2015, she was nominated as a member of the World Economic Forum's Young Scientists Community and has also served on the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Biotechnologies (2016–2018).[12][13] Since 2016, Alsafar was a member of the UAE Council of Scientists, and a member of Dubai's Future Council on Health & Wellbeing since 2019.[3][4]

Notable publications[edit]

  • O'Day, Elizabeth; Alsafar, Habiba (14 September 2018). "Advanced Diagnostics for Personalized Medicine". Scientific American.
  • Al Safar, H. S., Cordell, H. J., Jafer, O., Anderson, D., Jamieson, S. E., Fakiola, M., Khazanehdari, K., Tay, G. K. and Blackwell, J. M. (2013), A Genome-Wide Search for Type 2 Diabetes Susceptibility Genes in an Extended Arab Family. Annals of Human Genetics, 77: 488–503.
  • Alsafar H, Jama-Alol K, Hassoun A, Tay G. The prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in the United Arab Emirates: justification for the establishment of the Emirates Family Registry. (2012),International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries.1–8
  • Al Safar HS, Abidi FH, Khazanehdari KA, Dadour I and Tay GK. (2011) Evaluation of Different DNA Quality for use in Genome Wide Studies and Forensic Application, Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 89(3):807- 815
  • Al Safar HS, Jamieson S, Cordell H, Blackwell J and Tay GK. Heritability of Quantitative Traits Associated with Type 2 Diabetes in an Extended Family from the United Arab Emirates. Int J Diabetes & Metab. 2011;19:56–62


  1. ^ "Habiba AlSafar CV" (PDF). MEMBS. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  2. ^ "The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015". Arabian Business. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Habiba Al Safar – The First UAE Synchrotron User Meeting". AESUA.org. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Habiba Al Alsafar". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  5. ^ "Habiba Alsafar official page". LinkedIn. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Dr Habiba Al-Safar". www.britishcouncil.sa. British Council Saudi Arab. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  7. ^ "Postgraduate Profiles". University of Western Australia. School of Social Sciences. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  8. ^ a b Hilotin, Jay (14 August 2013). "Emirati scientist building world's biggest DNA databank of bedouins". Gulf News. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  9. ^ Qabbani, Bana (5 July 2011). "Diabetes link found in genes of Emiratis". The National. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Shaikh Mohammed honours 43 Emirati pioneers". Khaleej Times. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Al Jalila Foundation reaffirms commitment to women in science". 27 August 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Prestigious membership for 3 UAE scientists". Khaleej Times. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  13. ^ O'Day, Elizabeth; Alsafar, Habiba (14 September 2018). "Advanced Diagnostics for Personalized Medicine". Scientific American. Retrieved 12 September 2019.