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Young scientist dreams of making domestic cancer drugs

On November 3, Duong Tien Anh marked another important milestone in his life when he successfully defended his doctoral thesis in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Hanoi University of Pharmacy.

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Duong Tien Anh poses at his doctoral thesis defence ceremony in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Hanoi University of Pharmacy on November 3, 2021. Photo courtesy of Duong Tien Anh

For other PhD students, it takes four years or more to complete the programme, but Anh has become a phenomenon of the university, completing the programme in just three years.

Anh, 28, became a PhD student in Pharmaceutical Chemistry of Hanoi University of Pharmacy in 2018. He was among 100 candidates with the highest scores of the university entrance exam in the country and became a student of the Hanoi University of Pharmacy in 2012.

“I felt that I grew up very quickly studying at university. As a pharmaceutical student, I have to study and research continuously and work in labs for hours. This shapes a future researcher if he or she wants to follow this path,” he told the online newspaper vietnamnet.vn. 

Dreams of pharmacy school

At the age of 16, Anh asked his parents to move to Thanh Hoa City to have an independent life. Every day, he would spend at least one hour riding a bike to his new high school, which was about 10km away from his house in Thieu Duong District. Moving to the city would save a lot of his time.

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Duong Tien Anh.

Getting his parents’ consent, he tried his best to learn skills to live alone in a big city while focusing on studying. He earned money by doing the school’s new newspapers and got a scholarship to cover his daily costs. He earned about VND500,000 (US$19.2) each semester.

One year later, Anh picked up his little brother to live with him and study at a gifted secondary school in the city.

Those difficult days were the motivation for the two brothers to achieve high academic achievements. In grade 12, Anh won the first prize in the province’s competition for excellent students in chemistry. His younger brother, Quang Huy, won the silver prize at the International Biology Olympiad and successfully enrolled in the University of Science before going to study in Singapore.

Anh said he really appreciated his parents because they always believed him, supported his decisions and helped him fulfil his dream.

In 2012, he moved to Hanoi to start his university years. Inspired by scientific research from PhD Nguyen Hai Nam, who is now rector of Hanoi University of Pharmacy, Anh applied to work in his laboratory and got accepted.

This is the beginning of his research path. Anh learnt and sharpened professional skills, writing a scientific article, learning how to do experiments and analysing data.

Anh and the research team took more than two years to complete their first paper. That was an article about N-hydroxybenzamide derivatives, which contained anti-cancer effects by inhibiting the enzyme histone deacetylase.

The moment he knew he got the first success, Anh was greatly motivated and completed his second paper before graduation. 

Cancer drugs 

With his excellent academic performance, he was directly accepted by the university as a PhD student. Anh chose the research project related to the synthesis and evaluation of the anti-cancer effects of some new derivatives that inhibit histone deacetylase.

Anh said cancer is one of the dangerous diseases with a high mortality rate that causes a heavy burden on patients and the society. The anti-cancer drugs currently used in clinical practice often had side effects at very high costs.

Therefore, the search for new anti-cancer drugs would be a solution, he said.

During his three years of doctoral studies, Anh has managed to have 14 articles published in the international journals of ISI standard. Anh was the main author of four articles and his four patents were registered in South Korea.

He said participating in many research projects would be helpful for those who were determined to follow the path of scientific research.

“My results are only a very small part compared to the achievements of many other young scientists,” he said.

Anh said he wanted to join in the process of finding a new drug from Vietnam.

“My biggest dream is to be able to research and find a complete new cancer drug from Vietnam. This research process is very difficult and costly and requires the co-operation of many scientists from many different fields,” he said.

Source: VNS/VNN

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