Dr Nguyen Manh Cuong: I want to pursue research on Vietnam’s medicinal plants

Associate Professor, Dr. Nguyen Manh Cuong, Deputy Director of Institute of Natural Products Chemistry (Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology) is taking solid steps towards producing a cancer medicine from a plant of North West Vietnam.

Dr NguyenManhCuong
Dr Nguyen Manh Cuong

Recently, his team was successful in extracting and purifying a compound that could be used to treat blood cancer from a plant that is native to North West Vietnam: the Strobilanthes cusia (in Vietnamese, it is called “Cham meo”). The plant has long been a traditional medicine of ethnic people in the mountains.

Dr Nguyen Manh Cuong began studying the effects of Strobilanthes cusia in 2006. The result was an international journal article. In 2011, Hanoi Department of Science and Technology and Ministry of Science and Technology funded his extended research. His team then managed to produce induribin-enriched powder from the Strobilanthes cusia plant. From this, they synthesized INDIRUBIN – 3’ – OXIM, which can be used to treat cancer including leukemia, in a new and environment-friendly method. He received the patent for this discovery in 2013, after filing for it in 2012. In its report, the National Office of Intellectual Property wrote that Mr Cuong’s team produced refined INDIRUBIN – 3’ – OXIM in an effective and simple manner without having to use chemicals to remove unwanted elements.

After many further experiments and preclinical research, Dr. Cuong succeeded in producing from the refined INDIRUBIN – 3’ – OXIM a supplement called VINDOXIM which could help to improve the immune system, prevent and treat cancer. It was already recognized as meeting the government’s safety regulations. Some cancer and leukemia patients recently requested to be test treated with Vindoxim. To bring the VINDOXIM to the wide market, Dr Cuong’s team needs more funding. The product also needs to go through clinical evaluation to be developed into a medicine, when its treatment capacity and economic value will be much larger. He plans to work with domestic or international pharmacy companies to produce VINDOXIM as a medicine. Many companies already indicated their interest in developing this product.

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Dr Nguyen Manh Cuong on a working trip in Hoa Binh.
 

Dr Cuong is also doing research on plants that could be used to treat cardiovascular and liver diseases. “I want to pursue the research of developing medicine from plants in Vietnam to produce meaningful scientific research and create products for the community’s health care,” he said.

Now a successful researcher, Dr Cuong said his time in Australia changed his life.

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Dr Cuong and his family during his time in Australia.

“I will never forget my time in Australia. It marked the big change in my career direction. I also got married and had my first child in Australia. I have also many memories of University of Sydney and my late supervisor,” he said.

Dr Cuong is also hoping to expand the research cooperation with universities in Australia. He visited the School of Health Sciences at RMIT in Melbourne on a work trip in October 2014.

Dr Cuong shared his thoughts of the Australia Awards Scholarships program. “The Australia Awards Scholarships are a precious source of funding for Vietnam. The program helps to train high quality human resources in various areas that are important and necessary for Vietnam. It helps to advance Vietnam’s integration and access to the world,” he said.