Varsities designated by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti), the Health Ministry (MoH) and the Higher Education Ministry (MoHE) to assist with the screening of samples from suspected cases are helping medical laboratories cope, said Public Universities Deputy Vice-Chancellors (Research & Innovation) Committee chairman Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Fauzi Ismail.
Among them are International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
The Malaysia Genome Institute (MGI), he added, is attempting to sequence the genomes isolated from Malaysian isolates.
On the research front, Prof Datuk Awang Bulgiba from UM Medicine Faculty Department of Social and Preventive Medicine leads a group of some 25 scientists and technologists taking a look at epidemiology study and mapping in Malaysia.
Epidemiology is a branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health.
UM data scientists are on the verge of rolling out a remote monitoring system for Covid-19 patients while a group of researchers from UTM is attempting to build a predictive model using machine learning technique, he said in a statement.
In addition, a group of bioinformaticians from UM has done in-silico work to understand the interactions of the virus with some repositioned drugs used in China and Thailand.
Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) has been preparing face shields using 3D printing and taken it a step further by producing it using their own design.
Universiti Malaysia Perlis (Unimap) took a more subtle but equally reliable and practical approach producing face shields using household items such as velcro and double-sided tapes.
Other varsities including Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (Upsi), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), are undertaking similar efforts.
The face shields produced are mainly supplied to hospitals and health clinics nearby the respective universities.
Apart from face shields, medical frontliners have constantly requested for more supply of other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which includes protective suits or gowns.
Thanks to its in-house know-how in the textile industry, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) is targeting to produce some 300 sets of PPE within a few days.
UTM has already started working with the Sungai Buloh Hospital by developing an intubation box prototype which was led by a group of technical non-academic staff and students.
The prototype received favorable response from medical doctors during their visit to the laboratories in Malaysia-Japan Institute of Technology.
The team is currently revising the design based on the input received and should enter production soon with a capacity of five boxes per day at an estimated cost of RM250 per unit — which is significantly cheaper than commercial units.
“The concerted efforts shown by the local universities during this Covid-19 pandemic, reassure us that the continuous support and investment to the universities have paid off,” said Prof Ahmad Fauzi.
“Local expertise is abundant as a result of investment in human capital.
“And our high-end equipment are able to produce practical solutions during a crisis because we’ve invested in research infrastructure.”