The first-of-its-kind Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics Research and Training Unit (N²RTU) will be set up under the Centre for Biomedical and Nutrition Research (CBNR), in collaboration with the University of Reading, United Kingdom (UK), and in partnership with the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). The research and training unit is funded by the British Council.
The N²RTU will be led by Dr Anto Cordelia Tanislaus Antony Dhanapal, Malaysia— Principal Investigator (PI) from the Faculty of Science (FSc) and Prof Vimal Karani S, UK-PI and Deputy Director of the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) at the University of Reading. Joining them from Malaysia are co-investigators, CBNR Chairperson Dr Eddy Cheah Seong Guan, FSc Deputy Dean for R&D and Postgraduate Programmes Dr Phoon Lee Quen, and FSc academic Dr Annaletchumy Loganathan, with associate partners, namely Head of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Research Centre (NMCRC) of Institute for Medical Research, National Institutes of Health (NIH) from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Malaysia Dr Mohd Fairulnizal Md Noh and Vice President of Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) Dr Mahenderan Appukutty. From the UK, Prof Vimal will be joined by IFNH Director Prof Ian Givens.
The inception of N²RTU is estimated to begin on 1 Feb 2022 and several workshops will be conducted for Malaysian postgraduate students, researchers and academics from other local universities under the Medical, Dietetics, Food Science, Biomedical Science and Biochemistry programmes, health professionals, government personnel, NGOs and professional bodies, those from the food and nutrition industry, genetics and anyone who plans to pursue research on nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics.
Dr Anto explained, “While Western countries have shifted their approach by adopting nutrigenetics, Malaysia trails behind due to the lack of knowledgeable specialists and technologists to conduct and translate genetic data to disease treatment and prevention.
Therefore, UTAR’s CBNR in collaboration with the University of Reading proposed to set up the N²RTU to be the focal point of change for transition to nutrigenetics approach and bring effective change in the welfare of the society. The main aim is to afford capacity building and create a nutrigenetics research ecosystem through knowledge and technology transfer with professional expertise from the University of Reading.”
CBNR Chairperson Dr Eddy Cheah commented, “We are grateful for the grant provided by the British Council to set up this training unit. The British Council offers numerous international funding opportunities to build relationships, share ideas and good practices, and globally connect collaborative initiatives to support economic and social growth. REL, which sits under the Enabling Research strand of Going Global Partnerships, was opened to support the research and academic environment through international collaboration, capacity building and knowledge transfer in line with the demands and priorities of Malaysia and the UK.”
He added, “This initiative falls in line with the National Key Priority Area under the National Plan of Action for Nutrition Malaysia (NPANM III, 2016-2025). It is guided by the Sustainable Development Goals and Malaysia’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030. Strategic partnerships with multi-stakeholders within Malaysia and the UK will be established and funding will be sourced both locally and internationally to sustain the N²RTU activities.”
The implementation of N²RTU is believed to have the potential of becoming an excellent case study for other countries and hence, target stakeholders at the international level will also be focused, given UK-PI Prof Karani’s expertise on global nutrition research and links with other countries through his ongoing GeNuIne collaboration. Delivering workshops will enhance the research capacity of early career researchers in Malaysia and supporting researchers in this way will help them to secure competitive grants to achieve research aims, which can eventually improve the health of the Malaysian population.
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Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR)