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Top Research Scientist Malaysia Awarded to IMU’s Professor in Cell and Molecular Biology

23 Nov 2018

“As a boy, being a scientist remain a dream. It had never occurred to me that I will become one until I started research endeavours during my undergraduate years.”

On 1 November 2018, Prof Leong Chee Onn, Professor in Cell and Molecular Biology at the International Medical University (IMU) has been recognised as one of Malaysia’s Top Research Scientist in the fields of molecular pathogenesis of cancer and drug target discovery. The prestigious Top Research Scientist Malaysia (TRSM) award was presented by Guest of Honour, YAB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia and ASM Honorary Fellow at the ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur. Prof Leong’s main research focus is on the fundamental mechanisms of human epithelial tumorigenesis and identification of new molecular targets for development of effective therapies to treat refractory human cancers. His recent studies on the p53 gene family, including the two p53-related genes, p63 and p73 has provided new insights into the diverse functions of this gene family in the development and spread of cancer.

“It is my honour to be recognised by the Academy of Science Malaysia (ASM) for this prestigious award in science alongside many esteemed scientists. The discovery that the p63 and p73 pathways play an important role in triple-negative (ER, PR and HER2 negative) breast cancers have provided new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of this refractory sub-group of breast cancers and significant improvements in the outcome of the disease affecting more than 170,000 breast cancer patients annually worldwide.”

In recognition to Prof Leong’s contribution in research, he has also been awarded the ECOR Fund for Medical Discovery Award (USA), the Institute of Biomedical Sciences President’s Award (UK), the Asian Clinical Oncology Society (ACOS) Award, the MAKNA Cancer Research Award (Malaysia), and the Overseas Research Student Award (UK). “As a scientist, the joy of discovering something or anything always inspires me. While our contribution is fundamental to the bigger discoveries, the collaboration and team work in transforming our ideas and efforts into something that benefits humanity is very rewarding,” added Prof Leong. Prof Leong obtained his Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (Hons) from the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the University of Nottingham, UK. Upon graduation, he was appointed as the Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA. To date, he has published more than 100 research paper in peer-reviewed journals, which includes high impact journals such as Nature Cell Biology, Cancer Cell, PNAS, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer Research and etc, He also served as Head of the Center for Cancer and Stem Cell Research from 2012 to 2018 and is currently the Deputy Director of the Institute for Research, Development and Innovation (IRDI) at IMU.

About the Award
As of date, a total of 133 research scientists has been recognised as Top Research Scientists Malaysia (TRSM) based on their outstanding research achievement and performance. Established in 2010, TRSM is an Academy of Science Malaysia (ASM) initiative in line with its focus on fostering a culture of excellence in science, technology and innovation (STI). The initiative aims to identify and recognise leading research scientists in Malaysia who have contributed significantly to the economic growth of the nation via generation and dissemination of knowledge, wealth creation and the productive pursuit of scientific excellence for the benefit of humanity.

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