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Muslim academic named among top influencers in medicine

Dr Qasim Rafiq has been included in the prestigious 2020 Power List of influential scientists, published by The Medicine Maker.[1]

The Power List celebrates great innovative minds in the small molecules, biopharmaceuticals, and advanced medicine sector that “drive the industry forward” and save lives by developing new medicines.[2]

The year 2020 has been a strenuous time for humanity, especially for the world of science. We have witnessed bushfires, the melting of glaciers, volcanic eruptions, and are currently living through a pandemic that continues to show an unrelentless power, claiming the lives of over 583,000 deaths worldwide at the time of writing.[3]

In times like this, it is important to recognise the individuals who are working hard to improve the circumstances of our world, some of whom are venturing to produce vaccines and treatments to combat the effects of COVID-19 and bring them to market as soon as possible.

The Power List includes Nobel laureates, multi-national CEOs, and leading researchers. One such change maker is Dr Qasim Rafiq, Associate Professor in Cell and Gene Therapy Bioprocess Engineering at University College London’s Department of Biochemical Engineering. Dr Rafiq previously had stints as a researcher and lecturer at Loughborough University and Aston University.

Dr Rafiq is one of a highly select group of only 20 global influencers in the ‘Advanced Medicine’ category. He featured on our Unscripted podcast earlier this year alongside Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad amidst the newly-introduced lockdown laws speaking about his department’s endeavour to find a cure for COVID-19. You can watch the full podcast below.

Much of Dr Rafiq’s activity focuses on the biological manufacturing of advanced therapeutics, including regenerative, cellular, and gene-based therapy – a combination of biology, chemistry, and engineering.

This comprises the entire ‘bioprocess’, including but not limited to the sourcing of raw materials and cells, to cell expansion in bioreactors, to the downstream processing needed to purify and concentrate the cell product for delivery to the patient.

Working closely with UCL Innovation & Enterprise, Dr. Rafiq is the Principal Investigator on two Knowledge Exchange Projects.

Commenting on the recent Power List accolade, Biovault Technical Limited, an industry partner with which Dr. Rafiq is in tight collaboration with, said on his recent accolade:

“We’re not surprised that Qasim was part of this esteemed group. His energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the advancement of cell and gene therapies are the reasons we have chosen to collaborate with him on two research projects using stem cells from the umbilical cord, as we look to collectively expedite patient access to these transformative therapies.”

Natalie Gough, the Programme Manager of another Knowledge Exchange Project due to start in September, said:

“Qasim is a prolific and engaging innovator, absolutely committed to translating fundamental science to clinical use for the benefit of society. We will continue supporting him on this ongoing journey and look forward to seeing him achieve even more in the future in the research and innovation space.”

When asked about the most valuable lesson he had learnt during his career, Dr Rafiq replied:

“Significant impact arises through effective collaboration and multidisciplinary teams working together to achieve a clear goal. Leaving ‘ego’ at the door and pooling the experience and expertise of others allows us to think creatively for new solutions and make meaningful change. In order to continue to develop new therapeutic and healthcare interventions we need to ensure improved industry, academic and clinical collaborations.”[4]

Dr Rafiq embodies what Muslims everywhere should be striving towards: to be someone whom society is reliant upon, rather than the constant fearmongering the media propagates. As the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, “The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people.”[5]

The ‘benefit’ mentioned was not specified as there are countless ways this can be shaped. Dr Rafiq chose to benefit mankind through the field of medicine, an area that our era is hugely dependent on to accelerate a return to that sense of ‘normalcy’ that the coronavirus has stripped from the world.

Dr Rafiq also spoke of the need to work together and create purposeful collaborations that can manifest in impactful advancements. As the saying goes, “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.”

Allāh says in the Qur’ān:

وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ

“And cooperate with one another in goodness and righteousness.”[6]

Not everyone is our competitor; most people are our partners. Take the time to learn and benefit from other people’s strength, presence, and innovation so that together – by utilising each other’s skillsets – you can put forward a project for your Hereafter that can testify for you on the Day of Resurrection.







[5] Al-Mu’jam Al-Awsaṭ 5937

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 5:2

About Hamza Saleem

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