Dr. Chawanee Thongpanchang, 2007 UNESCO-L'ORÉAL International Fellow


chawaneeChawanee THONGPANCHANG, 34, PhD in Organic Chemistry, is a researcher at the National Science and Technology Development Agency in Thailand, where she is working on the development of new anti-malarial compounds.

Malaria, a disease caused by certain species of the Plasmodium parasite, continues to pose a serious public health problem in developing countries. It is responsible for one million deaths every year, mainly in children under the age of five. One of the major challenges to controlling the disease is the increasing resistance of the parasite to available drugs. Because malaria mainly affects poorer countries, it is not an attractive target for the pharmaceutical industry and few new drugs are on the market. There is an urgent need to develop new effective and affordable alternative drugs.

Chawanee Thongpanchang’s research project aims to identify new molecules which can target the enzyme responsible for DNA synthesis in drug-resistant forms of Plasmodium. Classic anti-malarial drugs work by binding to the active site of this enzyme and inhibiting its action. However, in the drug-resistant parasite, a mutation in the gene coding for this enzyme changes its structure just enough to prevents the drugs from binding and therefore rendering them ineffective against the disease.

With access to state-of-the-art facilities available in Zurich, she will acquire skills for the processes, such as purification and extraction, necessary for the large-scale synthesis of new compounds thought to be active against the resistant forms of the parasite. Such large-scale synthesis allows sufficient quantities of the compound to be produced for testing of potential drug precursors.

By acquiring new skills and applying them to newly identified enzyme inhibitors, Chawanee Thongpanchang’s work will contribute to strengthening the pharmaceutical industry in Thailand and to the development of innovative medicines for neglected diseases.


Chawanee Thongpanchang of Thailand, UNESCO-L'OREAL Fellow 2007, receiving her Fellowship certificate from Beatrice Dautresme, Executive Vice President of -L'Oreal, and Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO

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2007 International Fellows Chawanee Thongpanchang (Thailand), Barno Sultanova (Uzbekistan), Petra Klepac (Croatia), Gisella Cruz Garcia (Netherlands), Laura Echarte (Argentina) Chawanee Thongpanchang of Thailand, UNESCO-L'OREAL Fellow 2007, during the presentations of the Fellows' research projects


About UNESCO-L'ORÉAL International Fellowships

Each year since 2000, as part of the L'ORÉAL-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership, 15 international UNESCO-L'ORÉAL International Fellowships are allocated to young women researchers in the Life Sciences, at the doctoral or post-doctoral level, whose promising projects have been accepted by a reputable institution outside their home country.

Starting with 2006 Fellows, the length of the Fellowships was doubled. Each is now worth a maximum of $40,000 and may cover a period of up to two years.

The Fellowships give a boost to promising research in the Life Sciences, helping the beneficiaries, who have already distinguished themselves by their talent and commitment, to pursue promising research at what may be a critical point in their scientific careers.

The UNESCO-L'ORÉAL Fellowship Selection Committee makes the final choice of three Fellowship beneficiaries from each of these five UNESCO regions: Africa, Arab States, Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean, and North America/Europe.

Source: All Information and photos courtesied of L'Oreal.