Posted on November 14, 2016

Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), one of Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU’s) three national research institutes, and Stars of Science are inviting the public to a talk by Dr. Abderrahim Bourouis, an Algerian engineer who was recently announced as one of four finalists in Stars of Science, the flagship “edutainment reality” TV format initiated by Qatar Foundation and hailed as the Arab world’s leading innovation show that enables the region’s aspiring science and technology entrepreneurs. The talk will take place in the multipurpose room at the HBKU Research Complex in Education City on Tuesday, November 15th at 9.00am.

Dr. Bourouis will speak to attendees about “Wonderkit” which he has been developing on Stars of Science. “Wonderkit” is a smart autism shirt that aims to detect, monitor and calm children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who may suffer from extreme anxiety and panic attacks. The ambitious, service-minded innovator previously created a smart shirt for Alzheimer’s patients, designed to prevent those afflicted with the disease from getting lost. His invention won the United Nations’ Arab Youth Creativity Award, further motivating Bourouis who holds a Ph.D. in telecommunications and Electrical Engineering to combine his technical know-how with a passion to help the differently abled.

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The World Health Organization reports that 1 in 160 children has ASD and estimates that there are more than 2.5 million children with autism in the Middle East. After speaking to a family in his community with an autistic child, Bourouis resolved himself to design a technological aid that could aid those with the disorder and their care-takers. His solution, the Wonderkit smart shirt, provides a low-cost way to measure and report an ASD child’s physical movement to family members or care-takers through a tablet or smart phone, suggesting appropriate interventions or actions that may help calm the child.

Commenting on his journey on Stars of Science thus far, Dr. Bourouis said: “I am very proud to be showcasing Wonderkit as a finalist. My hope is to develop Wonderkit for the wearable technologies market and improve the daily lives of families affected by autism – with it now becoming a reality, autistic children and their families will have a great resource.” “During the development phase of the innovation, Qatar Foundation and the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute at Hamad bin Khalifa University gave the Wonderkit continuous support in every aspect. I would like to thank them sincerely for making this project possible. I am also grateful to the end users that trusted me and gave me feedback on the innovation.”

QBRI played a key role in furthering the aspiring innovator’s work by granting him Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to test his product. The institute conducts specialized research targeting the improvement of healthcare in Qatar and the region and through its Neurological Disorders Center works on developing early diagnostic tools and novel therapies for ASD, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease among other neurological conditions. Bourouis added: “Through this talk at QBRI, I will outline the important functions of Wonderkit and demonstrate how it can improve the daily lives of families with autistic children. I invite all to attend to learn more about Wonderkit and its potential impact.”

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As well as providing information about how Wonderkit works, Dr. Bourouis’s talk will shed light on the prevalence of autism in Qatar and the region. Individuals from across HBKU’s research institutes, the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), Renad Academy, the Qatar Foundation school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs, the Child Development Center, and Step by Step special needs center in Qatar have been invited to the event, with those in attendance able to ask questions and engage ASD specialists in conversation.

Dr. Omar El-Agnaf, acting executive director at QBRI, noted: “It is crucial to connect the community with the innovative research being conducted at QBRI and beyond in areas of healthcare relevant to Qatar and the region. We look forward to hosting Abderrahim Bourouis for this public talk and look forward to connecting with those in attendance to ensure research at the institute and at HBKU more widely continues to target real-world challenges and meets the needs of the community.”