Prof Liew Choong Chin : Ways to cheat Cancers, Heart Disease and soon, other Maladies

PIONEERING MEDICINE

Prof CC Liew : Ways to cheat Cancer, Heart Disease and soon, other Maladies

Age is no deterrent for Perak-born cardiovascular molecular medicine pioneer Professor Liew Choong Chin who, at 80; is still travelling the continents from his home base in Canada. He speaks to AWANI Review Editor Razak Chik on his pioneering work in harnessing genomics to fight diseases before it takes root, and his vision of turning Penang into a medical hub.

The fight against the twin scourge of cancer and heart disease which relies on its early detection has now established a regional a base in Penang. This endeavour is being given a boost through the state’s association with globally-renown scientist Prof Liew Choong Chin who is an acknowledged expert in the science of disease detection.

Now a Canadian, the call of home has been so great for Prof Liew that he has set up GeneNews Diagnostics in Penang; a research and development laboratory facility set up in a 50:50 partnership with local partners.

Back in Canada, Liew is one of the founders of GeneNews Limited, an Ontario incorporated company that provides, amongst others; blood-based biomarker tests for early detection of diseases.

In technical speak, GeneNews applies functional genomics, initiating early diagnosis which provides the option of embarking on personalized intervention taking the cue from information culled from disease-specific blood biomarkers.

Drawing on GeneNews Ltd patented technology, GeneNews Diagnostics in Penang will work on evolving the process of disease detection further.

GeneNews Diagnostics has already introduced a new proprietary genomic technology product that offers the world’s first blood test to detect colorectal cancer risk stratification. This allows colon cancer to be spotted at its indolent stage and appropriate measures taken to snuff it out early and stop it in its tracks.

Prof Liew’s expertise has made him a much-sought after medical scientist-cum-researcher in North America as well as China but it is Malaysia that the tug on his sentiments is now pulling him.

He loves to reminisce about being born in small town Sungai Siput in Perak and of owing a huge debt of gratitude to the Chung Ling School where he studied in Penang – hence his ardour and hankering to return a favour in doing something significant for the Emerald Isle.

After earning his degree in biology at the Nanyang University in Singapore, the young Liew was offered to further his studies at the University of Toronto by Professor Charles Best – the man credited for the joint-discovery of insulin. His `light-bulb’ moment occurred when he discovered that the hormone could be detected in blood; which led to a myriad of hitherto undiscovered testing and detection protocols.

When asked why he has chosen to set up base in Malaysia, Liew was quoted : “I have been in the best medical school in Canada, did my post-doctorate in Cambridge and attended Rockefeller University in New York City. I became professor at Toronto, then a professor at Harvard. I am already known in my field. Deep down in my heart, I wanted to do something for the country.”

For more, watch Agenda AWANI's interview where Prof Liew talks about his quest to beat deadly diseases

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