BIOTEC researchers honored with NRCT awards

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The National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) recently announced the recipients to the NRCT Awards. There were 5 recipients of 2017 National Outstanding Researcher Awards, 33 recipients of 2017 NRCT Research Awards, 38 recipients of 2017 NRCT Ph.D. Dissertation Awards and 51 recipients of 2018 NRCT Invention Awards. The following work conducted by BIOTEC researchers or with BIOTEC’s contribution, were among the recipients of these prestigious awards:

Dr. Chairat

The work on “System for Controlling Plasmodium Gene Expression Using the glmS Ribozyme and Its Application for Drug Development” was awarded the National Research Council of Thailand’s Research Award in Medical Science - Excellence Level. The work describes the application of glmS ribozyme tool for studying the function of genes in Plasmodium parasites, a parasite family that causes deadly malaria disease. The application of this tool has led to discovery of the functions of malaria parasite genes essential infolate metabolism, host cell remodeling, processing of exported parasite proteins, virulence, hemoglobin catabolism, host cell invasion and nutrient uptake. This glmS ribozyme tool has attracted interests from more than 20 research institutes/universities in 10 countries for collaboration using the tool. The knowledge gained from research using the glmS ribozyme tool is very useful for developing new antimalarial drugs, which are urgently needed to counter the threat posed by malaria parasites resistant to currently used drugs. This work was performed by the BIOTEC research team led by Dr. Chairat Uthaipibull, a Principal Researcher of Medical Molecular Biology Research Unit at BIOTEC.

Dr. Thidarat1

“Value Addition to Sugarcane Bagasse: Cellulose and Nanocellulose Extraction and Its Application to Medical Materials” was recognized for the Research Award in Agricultural Science and Biology - Excellent Level. In this study, researchers extracted cellulose and nanocellulose from sugarcane bagasse using an environmentally friendly process of steam explosion and enzymatic treatment, as well as acid hydrolysis. The obtained nanocellulose was incorporated with polyvinyl alcohol in synthesis of scaffold, which has demonstrated to be a promising candidate for tissue engineering materials. As sugarcane bagasse is one of the abundant agro-wastes from sugar industry, this work will lead to significant value addition to waste. Dr. Thidarat Nimchua, Researcher of Microbial Biotechnology and Biochemicals Research Unit, Assistant Prof. Dr. Prakit Sukyai and his colleagues from Kasetsart University were responsible for this impressive work. 

Dr. Peera

“Mechanism of Influenza A Virus Suppression During Influenza B Virus Co-infection” was honored with the Research Award in Medical Science - Good Level. The study revealed the interaction between the nucleoproteins from type B and type A influenza viruses and the resulting inhibitory effect on growth of type A influenza virus. The discovery forms a foundation for the development of future tools for management and prevention of influenza virus outbreaks. Examples of such tools include the development of novel anti-influenza virus agents based on protein/peptides of nucleoprotein from type B influenza virus and the inclusion of appropriate type A influenza viruses in live-attenuated nasal spray vaccines so that they can persist and produce antigens in the presence of type B virus in the vaccines and the regimen development for bird flu containment. Currently, the research team is in a process of applying the viral vector technology, whose strength is in dissemination, safety and cost-effectiveness, to the potent antiviral property of the nucleoprotein from type B influenza virus to create novel anti-avian influenza virus therapeutics. This work was conducted by Dr. Peera Jaru-ampornpan et al., researcher of the Virology and Antibody Technology Research Unit.

Dr. Wirulda

“Development of a Linkage Map for the Identification of Quantitative Trait Loci Governing Vertical Growth in Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)” was recognized for the Research Award in Agricultural Science and Biology - Good Level. In this study, researchers developed a high-density linkage map in oil palm and identified the quantitative trait loci (QTL) influencing the vertical growth of palm trees by employing a genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) approach. The obtained SNP markers can be utilized in marker-assisted breeding programs to develop short palm varieties. Shorter palm trees are not only easier to harvest, but their productive period also lasts for almost ten years longer than that of the taller varieties, resulting in a considerable gain in oil production per seedling investment. Therefore, reduced vertical growth is a commercially valuable trait that contributes significantly to prolonged economic lifespan of oil palm plantations. Dr. Wirulda Pootakham et al., Researcher of Genome Technology Research Unit, were in charge of this important work.

Dr. Udom

“Physics of Viruses” was recognized with the Ph.D. Dissertation Award in Physical Science and Mathematics - Excellent Level. The study aimed to understand DNA ejection and DNA packaging of viruses by physics. It was found that to eject DNA into the host cell rapidly, DNA undergoes a temperature-induced transition from a solid-like state to a fluid-like state. In order to understand the mechanism of the retention of pressurized DNA, the physical properties of viral capsids are examined. The mechanical stability of capsids is increased by UL25 and gpD, minor proteins of Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 and bacteriophage lambda. These minor proteins bind to the capsids when their binding sites are exposed during DNA packaging. In this study, both the temperature induced DNA transition and the reinforcement mechanism are universally shared between two double-stranded DNA viruses that are evolutionarily billions of years apart. This opens up a novel avenue for nonspecific antiviral strategies and applications in medicine and nanotechnology. This work was conducted by Dr. Udom Sae-ueng, Researcher of Biosensing Technology Research Unit, at Carnegie Mellon University with Associate Professor Dr. Alex Evilevitch as an advisor.

Dr. Thanathom

“Revealing the Neuronal Phenotypes of Williams Syndrome in a Dish” was honored with the Ph.D. Dissertation Award in Medical Science - Good Level. In this study, researchers successfully employed induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) system to facilitate the study of Williams syndrome (WS), a rare genetic neurodevelopmental disorder, that is caused by hemizygous deletion of 25 genes on chromosome 7. Using reprogramming approach, it was found that WS iPSC-derived neural progenitor cells has increased apoptosis and therefore increased doubling time. The phenotypes could be rescued by complementation of frizzled9, one of 25 genes typically deleted in WS. Moreover, WS iPSC-derived CTIP2 positive (cortical layer V/VI) pyramidal neurons exhibit morphology alterations including longer total dendrites and increasing dendritic spine number per neuron, which are similarly observed in postmortem layer V/VI neurons. WS iPSC-derived neurons also show an increase in calcium transient frequency likely due to an increase in number of dendritic spines. The study has demonstrated that this promising iPSC system could be used to model such multigenic neurodevelopmental disorder. This study was performed by Dr. Thanathom Chailangkarn, Researcher of  Virology and Antibody Technology Research Unit, at University of California, San Diego under the supervision of Professor Dr. Alysson Renato Muotri.

Dr. Somkiet

“Bioremediation agent” was presented with the Invention Award in Agricultural Science and Biology - Good Level. This invention is a hydrocarbon-bioremediation formulation comprising an aqueous mixture of preselected nonpathogenic sporulating bacteria, inorganic nutrients, a stabilizer, and biodegradable surfactants. The bacteria in this mixture are stabilized until used and then activated when applied to waste organic compounds. The inorganic nutrients promotes an increase in the growth and reproductive capacity of the microbes while feeding on the material being decomposed, resulting in a greatly increased microbe population available to decompose waste organic compounds soon after application, and the sustaining of this microbial activity. The formulation enables microbiological digestion of difficult waste organic materials to inert volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide and water. This invention has been developed into a variety of commercial products by KEEEN Ltd. targeting at various industries such as petrochemical industry, automobile industry, food industry, hotels and hospitals. They can be applied to various types of services such as wastewater and sanitary treatment, oil spill response and cleanup, site contaminated and remediation service and oil storage tank degassing and cleaning. This versatile invention was developed by Dr. Somkiet Techkarnjanaruk, Researcher of Waste Utilization and Management Laboratory, in collaboration with KEEEN Ltd. which started as a joint research project to develop a commercial bioremediation agent in November 2008. In addition to this prestigious award, the invention has previously garnered several honors at home and abroad, including Gold Medal, the Best Invention in Environment selected by China and the Best Invention in Biotechnology selected by Japan at the International Invention & Innovation Exhibition (ITEX) 2012; Golden Medal at the 2012 Taiwan International Invention Show and Technomart; Grand Prize at the Asian Science Park Association in 2012; Semi Grand Prize, Special Prize of Russian House for International and Gold Prize at the Seoul International Invention Fair (SIIF) 2012; and Gold Medal at the 42nd International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva in 2014.


Posted on 7 February 2018.