Dr. Omar El-Agnaf

Acting Executive Director

Omar ElAgnafOmar El-Agnaf was awarded a PhD in Biochemistry in 1997 at the Queen’s University Belfast, UK. He worked as post-doctoral scientist at the School of Biology and Biochemistry, Queen’s University Belfast, from 1997 to 1999. In 1999, Dr. El-Agnaf undertook an additional post-doc position at St. George’s Medical School in London. In 2001, he was awarded a research fellowship from the Parkinson’s Disease Society-UK to establish his research group at Lancaster University. In 2004, he was invited to join the Faculty of Medicine at UAE University and was appointed to the Biochemistry Department. In September 2014 he joined HBKU at Qatar Foundation. Since he moved to the region in 2004, he has assembled an excellent research team and has been successful in attracting an array of scientific funding (over $6.0 M) from prestigious international funding agencies. Dr. El-Agnaf is frequently invited as a speaker at international scientific and clinical meetings and is currently a member of the editorial board of several international journals. His track record of basic and translational research productivity is characterized by publications in high-ranking scientific journals. Dr. El-Agnaf is considered a pioneer in the field of Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. Several inventions have emerged from his research, and his discoveries have greatly impacted the scientific research community, provided further insight into the molecular pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease, and offered new opportunities for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools for Parkinson’s disease. His research has also been translated into clinical studies to evaluate the potential use of α-synuclein in body fluids as diagnostic marker for Parkinson’s disease and related disorders.

Current research efforts in Dr. El-Agnaf’s laboratory cover the following topics: (1) Elucidating the mechanism of protein aggregation and deposition of and their potential link to neurodegeneration and cell loss; (2) Screening for small natural molecules as potential novel therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases; (3) Discovering novel biological markers for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease; (4) Developing novel immunoassays for diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases, particularly in their early stages; (5) Developing conformation-specific monoclonal antibodies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease pathology for use in dissecting the pathogenic mechanisms, developing novel diagnosis and vaccines for neurodegenerative disorders; (6) Developing novel MRI- and PET-imaging compounds for Parkinson’s disease. These projects are supported and funded by several international funding agencies and pharmaceutical companies, including Qatar National Research Foundation (Doha, Qatar), Parkinson’s disease Foundation (NY, USA), Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (NY, USA); Lundbeck A/S (Copenhagen, Denmark); Weston Brain Institute (Canada) and Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (NY, USA).

Prof. El-Agnaf’s contribution to the field include: In 1998, Dr El-Agnaf demonstrated for the first time that mutations in α-synuclein protein associated with familial cases of Parkinson’s disease increased the tendency of the α-synuclein to aggregate and form amyloid-like fibrils compared to the wild-type protein (independently of Peter Lansbury’s group). His team reported the unexpected finding that α-synuclein is normally secreted in conditioned culture media from neuronal cells, and also detected in human cerebrospinal fluid and blood plasma; This discovery has led to the hypothesis that α-synuclein is normally released by the neuronal cells into the surrounding media and that the concentration levels of the extracellular α-synuclein and/or its modified forms might be altered in the CSF and blood of patients with Parkinson’s and related diseases. His group has pioneered the developments of novel strategies for quantitative detection of α-synuclein and its modified forms as potential biomarker for Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. Recently, Dr. El-Agnaf’s group has developed novel conformation-specific monoclonal antibodies that recognize the pathology of Parkinson’s disease, without cross-reactivity to other neurodegenerative diseases pathology, such as Alzheimer’s disease. These novel antibodies have great potential for use in dissecting the pathogenic mechanisms, diagnosing the onset and developing a vaccine for Parkinson’s disease and related disorders.

List of Publications on Google Scholar.
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