PJN, DSDK, PSK, SMP, BCN
B.Sc. (Distinction), Biology (Nevada, USA), M.A Microbiology (Indiana, USA),
Ph.D Cellular and Molecular Bilology (Nevada, USA), Doctor of Science (Hon) (Glasgow, UK)
Name : Professor Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail (PhD), FASc
Area of expertise : Medical Microbiology, Medical biotechnology, and
Rapid diagnostics for infectious diseases
Institution : Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
Contact number : Tel: +604 653 3101 Fax: +604 656 5401
Asma Ismail is a woman of many firsts. Currently she is the first woman appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of USM. She was formerly the first woman to be appointed as the Director General of Higher Education, Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia. She was also the first woman to be appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia in 2012 making her the first woman to be appointed twice as Vice-Chancellor of public universities. She was also the first woman appointed as the President of Academy of Sciences Malaysia.
She graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, USA with distinction in biology, received her MA in Microbiology from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA and obtained her PhD in the field of Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, USA in 1986. Her areas of expertise include Medical Microbiology, Medical Biotechnology and Rapid diagnostics for infectious disease.
Prof. Asma started her career as a lecturer in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in 1986. She was a visiting scientist at University of Tokyo in 1989 and a visiting fellow at the Medical College, St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London in 1992. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1993 and served as Deputy Dean of Administration in 1994. She was promoted to Professor in 2000 and became Deputy Dean of Research in the same year. In 2001, she became the Director for the Centre for Medical Innovations and Technology Development, USM. In 2003, she was appointed as the Founding Director, Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine (INFORMM), the first multi-disciplinary cluster based research institute for Universiti Sains Malaysia. Within 5 years led INFORMM to be a HiCoE (Higher Education Center of Excellence) recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education. In May, 2008 she became the first woman in USM to hold the post of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and innovation). In December 2012, she became the first woman to hold the Vice-Chancellor’s post at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia and the fifth woman to be appointed as Vice-Chancellor of a public university.
Prof Asma’s research interest is in the scientific discovery of biomarkers and the development of rapid diagnostics for infectious diseases especially for typhoid and paratyphoid fever. Prof Asma is especially interested in the development of technology platforms for diagnostics in low resource settings and for people of marginalized population. Her efforts in this area was given due recognition when she was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Science from University of Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom in June 2013. Indiana University, Bloomington, USA has also honored her work in development of rapid diagnostics for typhoid by conferring her the Indiana University’s Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion for her contributions in medical diagnostics which was awarded on 23rd May of 2015.
Prof Asma is among the country’s research leaders. She is actively involved in research having attained more than RM19 million (USD 5.6 million) worth of grants within the last 5 years, presented 340 papers and received more than 184 invitations as a plenary or keynote speaker at national and international levels to share her scientific findings and experience in the commercialization of R&D products. Prof. Asma’s R&D achievements and research impact at national and international levels have led to more than 132 scientific publications, 30 patents filed world wide of which 13 have been granted, and received more than 162 awards and recognitions at national and international levels. The prestigious awards received include the National Young Scientist Award in 1991, Malaysian Toray Science and Technology Award for outstanding contribution in science in 2002, National Inventor Award in 2003, National Innovation Award, 2006 and the National Academic Award for Product and Commercialization in 2007. She was conferred Top Research Scientist Malaysia in 2012 by Academy of Sciences Malaysia.
For her significant contribution in science, she was made a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia in 2003 and served as its council member from 2007-2011. In 2010, she was made a member of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). In 2012, she became the first woman elected as the Vice-President for Academy of Sciences Malaysia for a period of 4 years. Based on her expertise, she served as the WHO temporary Advisor for vaccine and diarrheal diseases since 2002. In 2016, she was appointed as a fellow of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences. In the same year she became the first woman to be appointed as the President of Academy of Sciences Malaysia (2016 -2019). As President of the Asia Pacific University Community Engagement Metwork (comprising of 87 universities from 19 countries) she ensures that innovations from the universities gets to create a sustainable change in the community especially among the marginalized population.
At the National level, she is the founding chairperson for the establishment and implementation of the National Academic Award (Anugerah Akademik Negara), a job that she maintained for seven years to ensure the successful set up, branding and positioning of the award. She was also entrusted to chair the Implementation of Innovative Human Capital for the Ministry of Higher Education that developed action plans for to develop innovative talent from cradle to career. She also chairs the Cluster Development Committee for the Nobel Laureate grants in Physiology or Medicine under the Academy of Sciences Malaysia and the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (medicine) for the Ministry of Higher Education. She is a committee member for the Establishment of Research Universities in Malaysia and is also a member of the Assessment Committee for Research Universities by the Ministry of Higher Education that led to the landmark establishment of Research universities in Malaysia. She also serves as the chair for the development and direction of R&D towards implementation of the national Strategic Planning for Higher Education. She also helped determine the direction in Biotechnology by being a member of the Cluster Working group on Healthcare biotechnology, Member of the Penang Biotech, Pharma and Neutraceutical Advisory panel for Invest Penang and member for the National Strategic Planning and Advisory for Biotechnology, Ministry of Higher Education.
Prof Asma played a key role as she co-helmed the development of the landmark Malaysian Education Blueprint (Higher Education) 2013-2025. She is one of the authors as well as Deputy to the blueprint project taskforce. Prof Asma is responsible for making strategic decisions on policy directions, coordinating the blueprint development process, manage key resources of input, engaging a broad range of stakeholders and is one of the two people who has to sign-off the document. She is currently overseeing the implementation of the Blueprint at USM.
As a researcher, Prof Asma is passionate about the idea of developing indigenous health technologies and innovations that can generate wealth for the country and improve the quality of life of society at large. She is committed to the development of rapid and affordable diagnostics for infectious diseases as a means for ensuring availability and accessibility to quality healthcare especially for the people from the underdeveloped countries. To drive this passion, she specializes in the area of proteomics and its application in the rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases, especially typhoid fever. Her studies on specific biomarkers led to the discovery of an antigenically specific 50kDa of Salmonella Typhi. Prof Asma is one of the scientists credited with the translation of the scientific discovery into four rapid diagnostic kits for typhoid that have been successfully commercialized globally to more than 18 countries since 1994. Commercialization of TYPHIDOT, a rapid diagnostic test to diagnose for acute typhoid, has generated sales, publications, improved the quality of healthcare especially among the poor, generated more than 500 jobs worldwide and supported growth of the local industries in Malaysia. In partnership with Malaysian Technology Development Corporation, she has helped to create a startup biotech company pioneering in Bio-diagnostics for the country. TYPHIDOT became the flagship product of the company which generated at least RM 16 million in gross sales and helped to diagnose more than 2 million cases.