ITEX Awards

Title: World’s first pH-sensitive inorganic nano-crystals to serve as super-efficient drug-transporter

ITEX 2016 Gold Medal 
Associate Professor Md Ezharul Hoque Chowdhury
Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Dr Md Ezharul Hoque Chowdhury completed his Doctor of Engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2003 and subsequently worked there as a research fellow and as a team leader till the end of 2006 before joining the same institute as a tenure-track assistant professor. He was also a visiting assistant professor at Shizuoka Cancer Center Institute. He joined Monash University Malaysia in 2011. Dr Ezharul has created a new branch in nanomedicine delivery by developing for the first time pH-sensitive inorganic nanoparticles with fascinating properties which confer notable advantages over conventional carriers. So far, Dr Ezharul has achieved 25 research grants as principal investigator (PI) and is currently supervising 10 PhD and Masters students. He has published in more than 100 original articles in internationally reputed journals, in addition to a book. He is the inventor of seven US, Japanese and Malaysian patents (published and filed).

This is a pioneering development of a smart nanotechnology platform based on a diverse range of pH-sensitive inorganic nanoparticles as efficient carriers of conventional and new generation therapeutic molecules. For the first time pH-sensitive inorganic nanoparticles with fascinating properties, confer notable advantages over conventional carriers. This is a substantial advancement in the field, considering the limitations of the existing nano-carriers, such as instability in plasma, insufficient release of drugs from the carriers and unwanted side-effects (toxicity). The rapid biodegradability of these mineral nanoparticles along with the requirement of low amounts of the drugs resulted in no adverse effects usually noticed with traditional nano-formulations.

Based on the highly promising pre-clinical data obtained in animal models with smart nano-devices in delivering small molecule anticancer drugs, functional genes and selective siRNAs, it will be optimistic to see the actual success in clinical trials with nano-formulations showing impressive therapeutic efficacy with a drug dose almost 100-fold lower than that traditionally used.

With a view to translate the research findings into beneficial products for humans, the current focus is on tailoring of this nanotechnology for treatment of cancers, particularly breast carcinoma. A number of projects have been undertaken to predominantly target the nano-carriers to the cancer cells by overcoming multiple barriers commonly faced after systemic delivery while discovering alongside, novel potential key cellular targets responsible for cancer cell progression and survival.
Title: Compact Photolithography Equipment

ITEX 2016 Gold Medal
Associate Professor Narayanan Ramakrishnan
School of Engineering
N.Ramakrishnan is Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering Discipline, School of Engineering, Monash University Malaysia. He is the founder of Micro and Nano Devices Lab and research group in Monash Malaysia. His research interests include microsensors, acoustic wave sensors, nanostructured sensing medium, UV LED lithography, and environmental sensors for wearable technology. He has authored several peer-reviewed journals, filed multiple patents, and secured various government and industry grants. He is a recipient of several international innovation awards, a supervision award, and education excellence awards. He is currently focused on translation research and is working towards commercialisation of his research group outcomes.

This work relates to the invention of a low cost and compact mask aligner system, a kind of photolithography equipment that can be used to manufacture electronic chips such as integrated circuits and micro-electromechanical systems. The aim was to manufacture miniaturized sensors in-house (campus laboratory) that can be used for environmental sensing applications at low cost. This led to the research on inventing a photolithography machine and filing of new patent applications for inventive features in advancing lithography technology. The research marks an important contribution to translational research priority and showcases the potential of Monash University Malaysia campus’ research strength on microelectronics/manufacturing in the E&E sector. The technology of the proposed mask aligner prototype is original and it will give opportunities to create new semiconductor equipment for the manufacturing industry. It is well received through innovation awards in the international arena. The invention also inspired formulation curriculum on micro devices and to introduce niche technology to undergraduate students: an important give back in terms of education. This motivating work demonstrates that simple yet excellent ideas are important in engineering research which can lead to good inventions.

Contributor: Lee Neam Heng
Title: Combination of Ghrelin and Kisspeptin Analogs (GPR54 Agonists) for Growth of Aquatic Animals

ITEX 2016 Gold Medal
Ishwar Satoshi
Professor Ishwar S. Parhar
Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Professor Ishwar Parhar received his Ph.D from the National University of Singapore and worked at The Rockefeller University, USA and Nippon Medical School, Japan. He is the Director of the Brain Research Institute and Head of Neuroscience, Jeffery Cheah School of Medicine, Monash University. Professor Ishwar is internationally recognized in the field of Reproductive and Aging Neuroscience. He has published 190 research articles and co-authored several books. He is on the Editorial Board of international journals and is the President of NeuroMalaysia Society. His scientific achievements have gained him the ‘Top Scientist Award’ Malaysia, ‘Hind Rattan Award’ India and Narishige Award Japan.

Dr. Satoshi Ogawa
Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Dr. Satoshi Ogawa received his MSc from the University of Tokyo and PhD degree from Nippon Medical School, Japan. His current research interest is to study the neuro-molecular mechanism of cognitive impairment and dementia. He has published 48 research articles in internationally renowned journals such as Endocrinology and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), with over 1700 citation index. He has received several awards such as the Jimmie Dodd Memorial Prize from International Congress of Comparative Endocrinology and the Young Investigator Award from the Malaysian Society of Pharmacology and Physiology.

Fish production in the ASEAN countries will reach 24% of global output by 2030. In the ASEAN, fish is hugely an important source of nutrition, which also provides income and employment opportunities. In captive pond conditions, some fish species take time to reach marketable size. Therefore, advancing growth is critical for sustainable aquaculture as well as for the food security for the rapidly growing population. This invention relates to a method for stimulating growth of aquatic animals in a safer and effective strategy by combination of naturally occurring gut and brain hormones called ghrelin and kisspeptin, respectively. The researchers found that fish (tilapia) fry given feed that is supplemented with a combination of hormones showed significant faster growth. This invention can be applied as a less toxic/harmful method for aquaculture because the molecules utilized are endogenous to the fish. In addition, this invention has been patented (PI 2013702246) and awarded a gold medal during ITEX2016. This invention would be useful for food security, promotion of economic development and reducing overfishing in the ASEAN region and is linked to Food Security, one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Contributor: Shogo Moriya
Title: Biodegradable Polymers for Future Materials

ITEX 2016 Gold Medal
Dr. Pushpamalar Janarthanan
School of Science
Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan is Senior Lecturer at the School of Science, and Deputy Director of Monash-Industry Palm Oil Education and Research Platform at Monash University Malaysia. She produces Green Biodegradable Polymers from plant biomass for drug delivery systems, biomaterials, packaging materials, adsorbents in wastewater treatment and superabsorbent slow release fertilizers. Her research was recognized with a Gold Medal at the International Invention and Innovation Exhibition (2016) organized by Malaysian Innovation Design Society under the auspices of MOSTI. Currently, Pushpa supervises 7 PhD students and a Postdoctoral student. She is a guest/editorial board member, reviewer and examiner for several renowned international publishers, conferences and theses, respectively.  

Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) polymer is derived from sago and oil palm waste. It is cross-linked with various methods to form a three dimensional network called hydrogels. These hydrogels are porous. allowing various active agents such as drugs, fertilizers, metals, and dyes to be added into the cavity of the pores. The extent of crosslinking and nature of the CMC determines the controlled release of the active agents. These hydrogels are targeted for drug delivery systems, as bio-material for tissue engineering and wound healing, for packaging materials, for adsorbents in wastewater treatment and fertilizer carriers cum superabsorbents for the agricultural industry. The rationale for formulating biodegradable polymers is that they could disintegrate into fragments with non-toxic remnants and could lead to a reduction of non-degradable waste accumulating at the landfills. It could be the alternative material for industrial products replacing petroleum-based plastics. Also, this research contributes to keeping the world safe and liveable for future generations. Additionally, it will increase the awareness of environmental pollution of single-use plastic materials and change consumer conscience. The research is supported by Monash-Industry Palm Oil Education and Research, Global Asia in the 21st Century research platform under the cluster Science, Technology and Sustainable Communities and Advanced Engineering Platform.
Title: Exceptionally-Stable Anthocyanin-Based Food Colourant

ITEX 2017 Gold Medal
Joash Lim Yau Yan
Dr. Joash Tan Ban Lee
School of Science

Dr Joash Tan joined Monash as a lecturer in 2013 with a PhD in phytochemistry. His research interests are in the area of biologically-active natural products discovery, particularly phenolic compounds. This includes identifying extracts and compounds that exhibit desirable properties such as antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, anticancer, and antioxidant activity as well as practical applications for natural products, such as anthocyanin-based food colorants and organic corrosion inhibitors.

Associate Professor Lim Yau Yan
School of Science

Associate Professor Lim joined Monash as a lecturer in 1998. His research interests are in the identification and bioactivity study of phytochemicals from herbal plants, and in studying the effects of processing the bioactivity of herbal plants. He teaches Inorganic Chemistry, Medicinal chemistry and Analytical Chemistry/Spectroscopy. He leads a successful research team consisting of several PhD and MSc students. With an h-index of 30, he has published more than 100 papers.

Prof Lim is a member of the Review Panel of Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) for more than ten years. He is also an elected Fellow of the Malaysian Academy of Sciences.

This project falls under the GA21 research priority of Monash University Malaysia, as the key components of this colourant are natural and renewable (of plant origin), with the potential to be used as a functional food additive. With this in mind, a natural colourant extracted from Rhoeo spathacea was formulated with better colour stability than other natural equivalents, especially during prolonged storage and over a comparatively broad pH range. This has the potential to be used in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and others.

The plant of origin grows rapidly and can be found locally, allowing for local commercial production. This is fortuitous, given the heightened demand for natural colourants following an increased concern for health and wellness worldwide. The researchers have filed a patent for this colourant.
Title: mDengue Mobile Application

ITEX 2017 Gold Medal
Professor Daniel D. Reidpath
Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Professor Daniel Diamond Reidpath is a Professor of Population Health and Head of Public Health at Monash University Malaysia. He is also the Director of the South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO) Research Platform in Segamat, Johor.

Professor Reidpath has published widely including peer reviewed articles, book chapters, a special issue journal, commissioned reviews, and editorials. He has held research funds from the Ford Foundation, the Global Forum for Health Research, TDR/WHO, VicHealth, the Royal Society of Public Health, and the Wellcome Trust, and more recently as co-Principal Investigator of a grant to establish an Institute of Infectious Diseases of Poverty in West Africa.

Dengue is an infectious disease carried by mosquitoes associated with four related dengue virus csub-types. In Malaysia, controlling dengue is particularly challenging. The mDengue Mobile Application was developed due to address an expressed need by the Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah (PKD) Segamat, Johor. The App’s development became a vehicle to engage with PKD, which supports the work of South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO).

mDengue allows people to report, photograph, comment on, and geo-locate potential dengue mosquito breeding sites. The App assists the Ministry of Health (MOH) control the outbreak of dengue by reporting on mosquito breeding sites. The environmental health officers are able to review the reports and determine if investigation is needed. The officers can record the decisions made, and if there are any remedial actions to be taken, the entire process can be monitored.

The biggest contribution of the App is not in dengue control directly, but in a demonstrated willingness to work with the Ministry of Health on priorities that they have identified. This engagement with MOH supports SEACO, which is a major Monash research platform, with a focus on Sustainable Development Goal No 3: Good health and Well-being.

Contributor: Pascale Allotey
Title: GeneBlocks

ITEX 2017 Silver Medal
Shaun Jasmine
Dr Shaun Lee Wen Huey
School of Pharmacy

Dr Shaun Lee is a pharmacist by profession and is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Pharmacy at Monash University Malaysia. His research focuses on population health, in relation to pharmaceutical public interventions and how these can have an impact on health inequalities, in particular, on non-communicable diseases.
He has been actively looking at various ways of improving the quality of healthcare using technologies, especially among geriatrics and neonates. His research also focuses on how community pharmacists, who are uniquely placed in primary care, can be used for early disease detection and prevention.

Dr. Jasmine Hue Seow Mun
GA21 platform

Dr. Hue Seow Mun (Jasmine) is currently an adjunct lecturer with the GA21 platform in Monash University Malaysia. She was previously a lecturer in Molecular Biology with the School of Science. She is a strong advocate for active learning, evidenced through her award-winning innovative teaching approaches. Currently at the early stage of her career, Dr. Hue’s philosophy is to engage and enhance student learning by creatively incorporating innovative technologies and games in her teaching practice to cater for the next generation learner. She currently has a copyrighted board game, card game and mobile app to teach Biotechnology and Genetics. Her gamification project was recognized through the PVC’s Award for Excellence in Education (Early Career) 2017 and Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning 2018 (Monash University Australia). She is also working with NGO to enhance learning for dyslexic kids.

GeneBlocks is the first board game in the world to learn the “Central Dogma” of Molecular Biology. It includes both the transcription and translation processes and allows students to learn in a fun and interactive manner. Gamification is a concept that the researchers tried to introduce in their classrooms which is basically the usage of games in non-game context. This board game has been used in Genetic and Biotechnology tutorial classes and it allows students to compete and collaborate with their peers. Previous research has found that competition via games can trigger parts of the brain that promotes learning. This idea started as a small education project and eventually led to an Intellectual Property (IP). The researchers are now looking at selling the board game to other universities and are interested in looking at the feedback and impact of this teaching methodology on students. This is a new area of education research in Monash University Malaysia and the researchers are excited and happy to share their gamification work with others.
Title: Green Approach: Capitalising Local Fungal Strain Penicillium Citrinum for Biofungicide Development

ITEX 2018 Gold Medal
Adeline Cheow
Associate Professor Adeline Ting Su Yien
School of Science

Associate Professor Adeline Ting’s research interest is in Applied Microbiology. She bioprospects microorganisms for use as biofungicides, bioremediative agents and as biofactories of novel compounds. Her green approach has successfully attracted seven external grant awards (as Principal Investigator) from MOE and MOSTI (now MESTECC). She has published more than 50 refereed journal articles, and 8 invited book chapters.

Adeline has also been awarded the Gold Medal in ITEX (2018), the National Outstanding Researcher Award (Biological Science) in 2018 by the Private Education Cooperative of Malaysia, and the PVC’s Award for Research Excellence by an Early Career Researcher in 2013.

Dr. Cheow Yuen Lin
School of Science

Dr. Cheow Yuen Lin is currently a senior lecturer with the School of Science, Monash University Malaysia (MUM). He obtained his BSc (Hons) in Chemistry and MSc in Natural Product Chemistry from University Putra Malaysia. He then undertook his PhD in Organometallic Chemistry at Nanyang Technological University Singapore. He is a trained synthetic chemist with skills in molecular synthesis, characterization and Schlenk-line techniques.

He is currently the principal investigator of a research grant from FRGS, MOHE. The aim is to synthesize new potent metal carbene complexes and evaluate their biological properties, so as to learn more about the structure-activity relationship between the two.

This work focuses on the fungal strain Penicillium citrinum, and using this strain as a possible alternative to the use of chemicals. The Researchers found significant benefits with the application of this strain by drenching and using solutions containing their spores to the plant. The researchers also observed improved plant growth and better tolerance to disease incidence.

Researchers look for fungal strains that can produce compounds that are active against disease-causing agents. Biological compounds and organisms are natural and non-toxic to the environment. This carries huge potential as this will minimize the use of toxic synthetic chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Researchers are adopting the “green approach” in finding solutions to environmental issues.

This work has shown that a fungal strain, isolated locally from a banana plant, has the potential for use as a bio-agent to manage diseases in banana and oil palm plants. The fungal strain is an endophyte, a type of fungi, that resides in the plant tissues. The researchers’ interest is to develop a more “green” and sustainable approach to the management of important crops in Malaysia. This also shows that fungal strain from Malaysia can be effectively used for the management of crops that are important in Malaysia.
Title: Hydrogel-Based Biosensor for Point-of-Care Diagnosis of Hepatitis B Infection

ITEX 2018 Gold Medal
Chan Tey Ooi
Professor Chan Eng Seng
School of Engineering

Prof Chan’s research interest revolves around the development of sustainable chemical processes and functional chemical products for food, energy, and biomedical applications. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and a subject editor for Chemical Engineering Research and Design.

Professor Tey Beng Ti
School of Engineering

Prof Tey’s research focuses on biotechnology and bioprocess engineering. His team has developed many simple and efficient methods for the production of virus-like particles derived from Hepatitis B virus, Nipah virus and nodavirus. The current research focus of his team is to utilise the fascinating properties of stimuli-responsive hydrogels and polymers for various biomedical applications such as smart biosensor systems, targeted drug delivery and protein separation. Prof Tey is subject editor for Food and Bio-products Processing.

Associate Professor Ooi Chien Wei
School of Engineering

Associate Prof Ooi’s research focuses on the applications of smart polymer and ionic liquid in chemical, biochemical and bioprocess engineering. He has been involved in research, related to bioprocess design and the practical applications of various separation techniques, for bioprocess integration.

Hepatitis B vaccination has been proven effective in reducing the incidence of acute hepatitis B, which remains a major health issue globally. Many carriers of hepatitis B virus (HBV) are unaware of the infection, which poses a danger to themselves and the people around them. An early detection of HBV infection can dramatically lessen HBV-related morbidity and mortality, thereby substantially reducing the overall cost of medical treatment. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is a conventional diagnostic tool with widespread clinical use. Nevertheless, ELISA possesses limitations in its time-consuming and tedious procedures. Therefore, there is a need to develop a rapid and simpler point-of-care diagnostic method for HBV serological markers.

A biosensor has been developed for the diagnosis of HBV infection. This bio-sensing mechanism relies on a functionalised hydrogel that detects HBV serological marker via a volume change. The detection mechanism of the bioconjugated hydrogel is based on the swelling ability of hydrogel in the presence of target analyte. The weight change in the hydrogel, corresponding to the concentration of analyte detected, is measured using the quartz crystal microbalance. The label-free detection of HBV by the biosensor is rapid, inexpensive and highly specific.

This project aligns to the research priorities in Advanced Engineering Platform.

Contributor: Lim Swee Lu
Title: DITE (Deaf In Touch Everywhere)

ITEX 2018 Bronze Medal
Uma Devi Amreeta
Associate Professor Uma Devi Palanisamy
Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Associate Prof Uma Palanisamy is a PhD graduate of Biochemistry from Cambridge and has a post-graduate certificate in Health Leadership and Innovation from Harvard Macy Institute. Though her expertise is in pre-clinical medical and pharmacy education, she has particular interest in community engagement practice among healthcare professionals and health promotion research with the socially-disadvantaged and underserved population. She has been involved in community research for over 10 years and one such project is on the healthcare of the Deaf community. The DITE (Deaf in Touch Everywhere) is an app which she has developed with the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf (MFD) and the company Leo Burnet, through a collaborative research.

Dr Amreeta Dhanoa
Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Dr Amreeta Dhanoa is Consultant Pathologist and Senior Lecturer at Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University. She is the Coordinator of Microbiology and has designed many innovative teaching approaches to enhance students’ learning. Her research interests are in dengue infections, antibiotic resistance, endoprosthetic infections and medical education. She has authored numerous publications and presented her work in national and international conferences. She has been involved in community-based projects and research involving palliative care, dyslexia and autism and recently helped develop an app, DITE (Deaf in Touch Everywhere), which serves to aid deaf patients improve patient-doctor communication.

DITE is a mobile app for the Deaf to book services of a Sign Language Interpreter (SLI), by appointment or on-demand, uses free video calling features of popular platforms. It aims to address the basic need of the Deaf- to be able to communicate with healthcare, banking, legal and other personnel in confidence and with convenience.

The SLI can contact the user using a video calling service. Different from existing solutions which require significant investments in video conferencing technology, DITE makes use of free video calling features of popular platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger which are available for free. DITE will be able to address a more general need for the Deaf, i.e. having an interpreter present to assist in a variety of situations will more likely gain acceptance of a larger user base. The researchers anticipate that DITE will consequently gain the interest of sponsors, investors, and advertisers, after which additional features will be added on to the app to address the specific problems within healthcare, and eventually to other domains such as banking and education.

Contributors:  Sabrina Anne Jacob and Elizabeth Chong Yie-Chuen