March 6, 2018

First Graduate of the Joint HUJ-NUS PhD programme

The Singapore-HUJ Alliance for Research and Enterprise (“SHARE”) is proud to announce that Dr Yang Zhi from the Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore (NUS) was the first to graduate from the NUS- HUJ Joint Ph.D.  programme.

Dr Yang's research focused on “Novel mitochondrial-targeting anticancer platinum (IV) complexes”. He conducted his research under the joint supervision of Prof Giorgia Pastorin, NUS and Prof Dan Gibson, HUJ. Dr Yang Zhi carried out his work in NUS and Jerusalem, where he spent a year.

Despite greater awareness on prevention and treatment, cancer is still a major cause of death worldwide. Platinum-based anticancer agents, such as cisplatin, carboplatin and oxaliplatin, have been widely utilised to treat a broad spectrum of cancer for decades. Unfortunately, more patients have developed intrinsic or extrinsic resistance to platinum-based chemotherapy, and have suffered from severe side effects, such as nephrotoxicity and ototoxicity. Platinum (IV) compounds provide an opportunity to overcome some of these limitations. The study incorporated a mitochondria-targeting ligand (4-carboxybutyl)-triphenylphosphonium (TPP) on one side of both cisplatin and oxaliplatin scaffolds and 4-phenylbutryric acid (PHB), a histone decetylase (HDAC) inhibitor. It was hypothesised that anticancer efficacy can be enhanced by lipophilic mitochondria-targeting platinum (IV) compounds, which increase cellular accumulation, induce nuclear and mitochondrial DNA damage, and cause mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction.

Dr Yang said, “It is a great honour for me to be the first graduate of this doctoral programme. Before I went to Israel, I did not have much experience in chemical synthesis. Prof Gibson gave me valuable guidance on the basic concepts and mechanisms of platinum compounds synthesis. Prof Pastorin directed the research and advised me on how to solve difficulties in experiments. She also brought together people from different disciplines and diverse backgrounds to collaboratively brainstorm ideas. I enhanced my research skills under their meticulous guidance.”

The programme offers participating students the unique opportunity of an integrated advanced training experience, access to, and participation in the latest cutting-edge research and technology, in an international environment. There will be opportunities for the JDP students to gain valuable cross-cultural experience between the two countries and develop a strong appreciation of global issues.