Drug repurposing video wins competition

Congratulations to Christine Law Shing Wei for winning first prize in the inaugural K4M Short Video Contest 2021. Christine graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree, majoring in Medicinal Chemistry and Biotechnology and is now pursuing her first-year PhD in Medicinal Chemistry at the School of Science.

The competition served as a pitching competition for university postgraduate and final year project students to develop skills in pitching research ideas using short videos. The theme for this year’s competition was ‘Chemistry in the post-COVID Recovery’.

Christine’s video highlights the potential of drug repurposing and its usage as an alternative to the traditional drug development process post-pandemic. Over the years, several drugs have been repurposed, demonstrating new therapeutic benefits. However, it was not until recently that there was a surge in drug repurposing as a strategy to identify medication for COVID-19. This strategy is undoubtedly a better alternative to developing novel drugs, as the latter is highly time-consuming (requires over ten years) while considering the high risk of failure.

“Ideally, we want to discover a treatment as soon as possible to curb the pandemic. Currently, hundreds of repurposed drugs are in various phases of clinical trials against COVID-19, and hopefully, we will discover one which is highly effective against the virus soon! Essentially, the goal would be to stir up interest from potential investors so that drug repurposing can be increasingly utilised, especially in identifying medication for rare diseases, whereby only less than 6 percent of these diseases have an approved treatment option,” said Christine.

When asked about how she came across the K4M Video Contest 2021, Christine mentioned seeing a post shared by the Malaysian Young Chemists Network (MYCN) on their Facebook page.

“When I found out what the theme was, drug repurposing came to mind. So, I planned the video content and brainstormed a few analogies that I could use to help others grasp the concept of drug repurposing. I then read up more on the topic before working on the video. The top ten videos were judged based on their content and the number of likes on YouTube. After being shortlisted as one of the top 10 finalists, I managed to collect the most likes with help from friends and family. To this day, I still feel immensely grateful to them because, without their help, there was no way I could have won the contest,” Christine shared.

K4M was open to all active undergraduate and postgraduate students of public and private institutions of higher learning.  Videos were judged based on originality, scientific content, story telling ability, ability to deliver a concise and meaningful summary at the end of the video and the number of likes received in the participants’ YouTube channel. Christine took home a cash prize of RM800 for her winning video.

“Christine has followed me through her final year project, Honours year and now PhD. Before this, I have taught her Medicinal Chemistry and Advanced Organic Chemistry. As an undergraduate, she had performed well academically and had consistently produced work of a high standard. Although she has just started on her PhD, she has published a few papers regarding drug repurposing and medicinal chemistry, which is a testament to her research potential. I hope she will carry this enthusiasm with her and make significant contributions to scientific research in the future. Christine is a recipient of the Graduate Research Merit Scholarship from Monash University Malaysia,” said Christine’s supervisor Dr Yeong Keng Yoon.

Dr Yeong also shared a few points about his research group and its research direction. “Our group's research focuses on synthetic small molecules in drug discovery. Of specific interests are novel small molecules (synthetic, semi-synthetic) targeting age-related diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s and infectious diseases. Also of interest are biologics and the design of fluorescent molecules with theranostic applications. Furthermore, to reduce the impact on the environment resulting from R&D activities, some of the group's recent projects focus on using sustainable approaches to generate these bioactive molecules.”

Fantastic achievement, Christine. We are proud of you!