Cambridge, here I come

A PHARMACY graduate is getting closer to realising his hopes of enhancing Malaysia’s capabilities in developing innovative new therapeutics, and improving the lives of the world’s citizens.

Jun Hao Tan (pic) will be making his way to Cambridge University in the United Kingdom to pursue his Master of Philosophy in Therapeutic Sciences, after being named the recipient of the Chevening-Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF) scholar 2021-22.

The Kuala Lumpur native aspires to elevate his understanding of developments that may lead to the discovery and creation of innovative, new treatments that would significantly benefit patients in Malaysia and around the world.

“I will be able to access cutting-edge knowledge and learn advanced research techniques in therapeutic sciences at Cambridge University,” he told StarEdu.

Driven by a keen interest in biomedical research and therapeutics development, the 28-year-old has set his sights on furthering his research training at the research institutes housed in the Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre (JCBC) in Cambridge.

“Particularly the Milner Therapeutics Institute,” said Tan, who plans on leaving for the UK at the end of this month.

On which field he will specialise in, he said he will decide after he has “broadened my horizons and explored other areas of human disease research”.

Upon his return, he hopes to play a significant part in enhancing Malaysia’s capabilities in developing innovative new therapeutics.

“Malaysia already has the talent and resources to develop new medicines that can save lives, but I strongly believe we can do much more and much better than we are now.

“The best path to achieving that, in my opinion, is to participate in therapeutics research and development activities that are the result of collaborations between the biopharmaceutical industry, government and non-governmental research institutes, and academia (also known as public-private partnerships).”

Calling himself “an aspiring researcher in the early stages of my career”, Tan developed a passion for drug and therapeutics development when he was a pharmacy undergraduate at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

“Therapeutic sciences is a field of study that primarily focuses on the research and development of conventional and novel, innovative treatments across all human diseases, including small molecule drugs, recombinant protein technologies – for example, monoclonal antibodies – gene therapy, gene editing technologies, cell-based therapies, regenerative medicine and electroceuticals,” he explained.

“I am inspired by the hard work and dedication of countless scientists and researchers in discovering and developing safer, more effective, and more affordable medicines to improve human health, and I wish to contribute my best efforts in this area,” he said.

Tan was ecstatic when he found out about his award at midnight at the end of June.

“I felt so nervous as it had been more than two months since my interview, and I had no idea whether I had been accepted or rejected,” he recalled.

Having received the confirmation, he woke both his sisters to share the good news before calling his older sister in the UK to tell her about it.

He told his parents the next morning and was “extremely touched” by how happy and proud they were.

“I am really looking forward to interacting with, and gaining fresh perspectives from, my coursemates who will have a diverse set of backgrounds, expertise and interests, and learning from world-class lecturers at one of the best universities in the world.

“Outside of academics, I am really eager to try rowing as a sport at Cambridge and punting on the River Cam!” he shared.

The Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences is closely associated with the Milner Therapeutics Institute, a major translational organisation located in the JCBC – a key research centre in one of the largest biotech clusters outside the United States.

Some 1,800 Chevening scholarships are offered annually to prospects across 160 countries, with more than 55,000 alumni members holding up leading positions in their countries to date.

JCF became a Chevening Partner in 2018 to support outstanding scholars pursuing master’s courses in the fields of medical, physical or life sciences, at either Cambridge University, Oxford University or Lancaster University.