Malaysian first foreign researcher to receive Japanese medical award

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian scientist Dr Moi Meng Leng has become the first foreign researcher to be granted the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development Award for her work in the regional control of infectious diseases.

According to a report from The Star, Moi, who works with the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Nagasaki University, was accorded the award from the office of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on Thursday.

The award recognises her contribution to the development of an antibody test to evaluate the efficacy and safety of vaccines that protect against mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and dengue.

It is expected to contribute to the development of vaccines against dengue fever in Malaysia.

The event was held by Japanese ambassador to Malaysia Oka Hiroshi and Japan Graduates Association of Malaysia president Gary Tang, who hosted an online press conference to honour Moi’s achievement.

“Dr Moi has contributed to the regional control of infectious diseases by determining the epidemic dynamics of Zika fever, dengue and mosquito-borne diseases in Southeast Asia through genetic phylogenetic analysis and developing countermeasures,” said the Japanese embassy.

Moi said this development could help strengthen the relationship between Malaysia and Japan.

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“This is also in hopes that we can bring development from Japan to Malaysia, particularly with problems affecting infectious diseases such as dengue, Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.”

Moi added that the antibody test had been brought to Vietnam and that she is currently collaborating with Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia to conduct further research into dengue.

“The antibody test that we developed is to test whether the vaccine is safe and effective.

“With that, we hope we can test more vaccines. If they are safe and effective, we hope to bring them to countries in need,” she said.

While she acknowledged there had been complications in a dengue vaccine that was proposed to be introduced in Malaysia, she believed that the antibody test she had developed would help to avoid such cases.

“Before you introduce the vaccine to everyone, you have to test whether it is safe or not and whether it will cause severe diseases once you take it.”

She admitted that despite these new developments, she did not foresee a dengue vaccine being introduced in the near future.

Moi said she hoped that the technology that had been developed for Covid-19 vaccines could also be useful in the search for dengue and Zika vaccines.

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