Faculty of Pharmacy, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia organized and hosted an international program titled International Research Network Initiative 2020 (IRNI 2020) on 2 December 2020. This initiative was taken as part of an effort in intensifying research collaborations with partnering universities in the ASEAN countries.
About 140 researchers from four ASEAN countries actively participated in this half-day online interactive session. The participating universities were UiTM, Malaysia, Gadjah Mada University (GMU), Indonesia, Bandung Institute of Technology (BIT), Indonesia, University of Santo Tomas (UST), Philippines, and Mahidol University (MU), Thailand.
Participants attended a common session at the beginning of the program and later moved to the respective allocated concurrent sessions which focused on the research areas in the field of Pharmacy Practice, Pharmacology, Life Sciences, Pharmaceutics, and Chemistry. During the concurrent sessions, a representative from each university presented and shared their research interests and expertise of faculty members.
Besides, discussions also focused on future collaboration opportunities through grant acquisition, joint publications, postgraduate student recruitment (co-supervision), students’ and/or researchers’ exchange programs, income generation, and joint organization of conferences.
Several research areas in pharmacy practice were identified for potential collaboration which includes the community pharmacy-based research, health technologies, medication safety, pharmacoeconomics, pharmacotherapy in cardiology, renal, diabetes and HIV/AIDS, complementary and alternative medicines, geriatric care, and pharmacogenomics.
Potential collaboration in natural product-based pharmacology and toxicology research especially against cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation and cardiovascular diseases were also discussed.
Common interests amongst the participating universities in the areas of life sciences include drug discovery, the use of animal models in research, application of bioinformatics and molecular biology in, mainly, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
The potential areas for research collaboration in pharmaceutics include drug delivery optimization, nanotechnology-based medicines, cosmetics and nutraceuticals as well as antimicrobial and wound-healing therapies; whereas the potential collaborations in chemistry research areas include isolation of bioactive compounds from plant-/animal-based natural products, synthesis and structural elucidation of compounds for application in neurodegenerative diseases.
The plans in the pipeline that were discussed include creating a working group that serves as a discussion platform on future collaborative activities, organizing bimonthly webinars to facilitate sharing on new updates, exploring possibilities of MoA/MoU, and creating a dedicated webpage that shares information on research activities, grant opportunities, researchers’ profile, services and facilities to increase visibility and citations.