By Jane Moh
SIBU: Segi University has signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with Duke University from the United States as a partner for its Strategic Research and Development Blueprint.
The MoA was signed on Thursday in conjunction with the official opening of the Clinical Research Centre (CRC) Clinical Research Laboratory at the Faculty of Medicine, Segi University, Sibu Clinical Campus, at Sibu Hospital.
Segi University vice -chancellor Professor Dr Patrick Kee said the research focus would be towards building capacity for surveillance and diagnosis of respiratory viruses.
He said in recent history, emerging respiratory viruses has led to considerable human and animal morbidity and mortality across Southeast Asia.
Dr Kee said Southeast Asia is considered a hotspot for novel respiratory virus emergence as dense populations of humans and domestic animals often live in close proximity.
“With this research proposal, we seek to build upon on an existing facility in the CRC. However, currently the hospital lacks virus detection capabilities.
“To overcome the challenge, the CRC has partnered with Segi University and Duke University on a respiratory research project, which started in June 2017 in Sarawak,” he said.
He said Duke University would send a team of researchers to assist with the research work.
The project aims to help the hospital’s clinical staff adapt respiratory virus diagnostics as they currently have a high prevalence of pneumonia and no viral diagnostic capability, he said.
Dr Kee said they would focus on surveillance for influenza viruses, coronaviruses, adenoviruses, and enteroviruses of human or human or animal origin in medical waiting rooms, open markets, poultry and swine farms, and meat processing plants in the state.
“We will be working towards a common goal; to improve understanding of the factors contributing to the spread of respiratory illness, ultimately enhancing preparedness for and even prevention of diseases outbreaks in Malaysia.
“This will be one of our niche contributions towards the nation’s healthcare development,” he said.
He thanked the Division of Infectious Diseases, Global Health Institute and Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University Professor Dr Gregory Gray and his team from Duke University, for their initiatives to collaborate on such research and to provide sufficient research and development resources of around RM900,000.
He also requested the state government to plan and devise a strategy for universities and branch campuses located in Sarawak to be positioned in an ecosystem to contribute towards the growth of specific niche industries and healthcare development for Sarawakians.
Dr Gray said it was a great value for the university to partner with Segi University, Sibu Hospital, and the Ministry of Health.
Among those present were Asia Research Centre Naval Medical Research Centre director Lt Com Dr Tupur Husain; Sibu Hospital director Assoc Prof Dr Ngian Hie Ung; Sibu Hospital paediatrician and CRC head Dr Toh Teck Hock; Segi University Faculty of Medicine dean Prof Dr Yasmin Samiah; and Segi University Sibu Clinical Campus assoc dean Prof Dr Mohd Raili Suhaili.