Asma Ismail


Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion (2015)
2015 IU Asian-Pacific Alumni Conference
Location: Bali
Presenter: Michael A. McRobbie


Asma Ismail is currently the Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) and is the Founding Director at the Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine (INFORMM),USM. 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.

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. Development of rapid and affordable diagnostics for infectious diseases provides an opportunity to ensure availability and accessibility to quality health especially for the people from the underdeveloped countries. To drive the 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 4 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, and more than 500 jobs world wide and supported the local industries in Malaysia She has helped to create a start up biotech company pioneering in Bio-diagnostics for the country.

Asma started her career as a lecturer in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia 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 became the Founding Director, Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine (INFORMM), the first multi-disciplinary cluster based research institute for USM. In May, 2008 she became the first woman in USM to hold the post of Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and innovation), Universiti Sains Malaysia .

Asma is actively involved in research attaining more than RM 14 million (USD 4.7 million) in terms of grants within the last 5 years, presented 260 papers with more than 147 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. Asma's R&D achievements and impact of her research at national and international levels have gained more than 74 scientific publications, filed for 30 patents world wide of which 12 has been granted, received more than 92 awards and recognitions at national and international levels. She served as the WHO temporary Advisor for vaccine and diarrhoeal diseases since 2002. She received numerous prestigious awards of the country including 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 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 Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.

At the National level, she is the founding chairperson for the establishment and implementation of the National Academic Award (Anugerah Akademik Negara) and the Implementation of Innovative Human Capital for the Ministry of Higher Education. 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.