Ghada Al-Mutairi — Saudi scientist who changed the concept of surgery

Ghada Al-Mutairi — Saudi scientist who changed the concept of surgery

An ambitious Saudi woman has yet again proved sky is the limit for excellence. Ghada Mutlaq Al-Mutairi, 39, received a $3 million global innovation award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest organization supporting medical research in the United States, for her invention that changed the way surgical procedures are carried out in the country.

Al-Mutairi, who holds a doctorate in materials chemistry, currently lives in the US. She is a faculty member at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and director of the Center of Excellence in Nanomedicine.

Al-Mutairi invented a nano-capsule that can pinpoint inflammations within human body and release drugs to treat them using a laser. The US Congress selected her work as one of the four most important inventions in the country in 2012.

Al-Mutairi talked to Al-Riyadh newspaper recently about her invention. She said biology operates at nanoscale and therefore materials designed at that size can respond more effectively to disease. At  present, doctors have very little control of where, when, and how drugs act in the body. “We want these processes to work precisely in order to minimize off-target effects,” Al-Mutairi said.

She said her invention has been highly effective in eye and rheumatoid surgeries. The technology can be applied to other fields, such as industry, agriculture, science and engineering, and a large number of people could benefit from it, she added.

Ghada Al-MutairiIn Al-Mutairi’s opinion, the real value of a human being comes from the mark they leave behind. She said this was why she dedicated her life to scientific research.

Al-Mutairi conceived the idea of her device 10 years ago when she was told by cardiac surgeons about the biggest problem they faced: arterial obstruction that leads to myocardial infarctions.

The doctors could not tell if the obstruction was caused by an inflammation.

Al-Mutairi started looking deep into the matter, and after considering how to identify, locate and destroy the infection, she came up with a capsule that can carry drugs to the area of infection and treat it with a laser.

The project was not simple and it took her 10 years to come up with the innovation in 2011 before she was finally able to develop the nano-technology-based capsule in 2013.

Her invention was applied to treat eye diseases and rheumatoid arthritis in the US. It was so successful that a Japanese company contacted UCSD, saying it wanted to use the invention for agricultural applications.

Pfizer Corporation showed interest in purchasing the patent while several other pharmaceutical companies around the world wanted to benefit from it.

Al-Mutairi earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2000 from Occidental University in Los Angeles, and her master’s in biochemistry from the University of California. After obtaining her doctorate in chemical engineering in 2005, she went on to produce numerous research papers.

Al-Mutairi has three brothers and a sister, and the medical field runs deep in the family.

One of her brothers, Khalid Al-Mutairi, is a well-known plastic surgeon in the United States. Another of her brothers is a professor at Houston University, Texas, and the third is a dentist practicing in Jeddah, while her sister is a radiologist in Boston.

“My mother studied chemistry, and we are what we are because of her. She was a smart woman who dedicated her life to bring up her five children,” Al-Mutairi said.

She attributed her success to a combination of optimism and determination, as well as hard work.

Al-Mutairi said she follows up on developments in Saudi Arabia. “I love my country and am proud of it, whether I am in the United States or elsewhere in the world.”

She said she hopes application of nanotechnology would become widespread in the Kingdom soon.

In her opinion, innovation has no limits; currently she is supporting research aimed at finding ways to effectively remove fat from human body.


  1. Congratulations to her. Saudi women are raising there country name in all levels in the world. We hope and pray that they will also be allowed to transfer there nationality to there children soon INSHALLAH. Our socity allow men to transfer nationality to children but women are not allowed to transfer there nationality to there own children of that marry non Saudi men. These families especially the children suffer the most as they live like foreighners in there mother land while in reality they are children of Saudi citizen.

    • Inshallah, Soon Saudi mothers will be able to transfer their Nationalities to their kids like Saudi men. May Allah help Saudi women, Ameen..

  2. Congratulations to Mutairi for her innovation work that earned pride for her family and country as well. There is no dearth of qualified people in Saudi Arabia, it is only a matter of opportunity that exploits hidden potential of students. The Education Authorities in Saudi Arabia must benefit from Miss Mutairi’s experience and reform education system in Saudi Arabia which promotes scientific research and retain highly qualified educationist without any condition of Saudization for this prophetic profession.

  3. This is an awesome advance in the treatment of hard too reach infection, and yes a major step in treating heart conditions that up till now have been very difficult. I have to wonder if it wou l d be effective in any way at carrying cancer treating substances directly to the tumor such as brain tumors, or if bone cancer is discovered in a specific area? Also to deliver medication directly to a post surgical site after this like hip replacement as a way to reduce rejection?
    I am Sure the future of this device is limitless.
    I wonder if it would get more financial support for further research in KSA or UAE ?
    I understand the UAE has many new programs they are focusing on in research and development.
    Good luck with this…I admire you dedication.

  4. Awesome, She proved that Saudi women can do every thing if Govt provide them opportunity. We all are proud on this Great lady & wish best of luck & success for her ambitions. I hope all women in Saudi Arabia get their basic rights soon.

  5. Arab people IQ is better than other people, the most unfortunate is majority of Arab people are not using thier IQ in right direction in right time. the good days are very near ,the arab IQ will benifit whole humanity in the world in different ways, politically ,economically, socially INSALLAH

  6. Wow….my salute and respect to this Saudi woman!..I stressed Saudi because we usually have a rather negative opinion of most Saudi women we know…who doesn’t want to work and treats other people badly….but this Saudi woman just earned the respect of people worldwide!


  7. Hi sis! Assalamualikum Warahmatullah.
    May you prosper in this world and the next. Kudos to you for this magnificent achievement. You have made us proud Alhamdulillah. I wish I could personally meet to tell you as to how much I’m overwhelmed by this landmark you have achieved.
    JazakAllahu khairan.

  8. Masha-Allah sister Ghada, may Allah reward you more & more.
    Saving a life is like saving the whole nation, long live sister Ghada

  9. I am delighted to see a Saudi woman succeed. More power to her. I just hope she would use her stature to tell the world about the barbarism of the Saudi Government and their local officials. This is the only country on earth that still beheads women with a sword in the middle of streets! This is the only country that you get your hand chopped off for steeling a loaf of bread. SA government spends hundreds of million dollars every year in propaganda to portray a positive image in the West. Sadly it has been highly effective and not a lot of people know what is going on inside this country.

  10. It would be a pride for Saudi Arabia if she could have done that in her own country, impossible to achieve that living here, such a shame the authorities and society doesn’t support and encourage this kind of education, she had to study in USA in order to follow her dreams

  11. Dr. Ghadah, you made your family and country proud, what you achieved is very well appreciated by everyone who understands it. We all share Susan ferells thoughts and hope,there must be one or common factors between the inflammatory process and the reaction of the immune system to the attack of cancer cell on normal cells in the various tissue cells that may guide the capsule towards that growth. Now how to deal with it is of course a different story…..just a thought. All the best.

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