On 2 February 2023, the Mahathir Science Award Foundation collaborated with the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), in organising MSA Laureate Prof. Sir Alimuddin Zumla’s Public Lecture and Joint-Intellectual Discourse. Due to the covid-19 restrictions and tight schedules, the Foundation is finally holding this event after 2 years since the 11th Mahathir Science Award Ceremony. It was held virtually for all participants worldwide.

Prof. Sir Alimuddin Zumla is internationally renowned for his exceptional, health-policy relevant research, training, capacity building and advocacy contributions to the understanding of epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis, other respiratory tract infections, and emerging and re-emerging pathogens with epidemic potential. He has received numerous prestigious awards, medals, and prizes throughout his career as a clinician scientist, including the 2020 Mahathir Science Award, in the Tropical Medicine category.

The topic for the lecture is ‘A lifetime’s perspective on infectious disease’ and was moderated by Prof. Abhi Veerakumarasivam. To summarise the lecture, it talks about Sir Alimuddin’s life experience or journey as a doctor, researcher, and global health advocate on reducing poverty-related diseases. He firmly believes that questioning and changing the established dogma is essential in advancing medicine and science. In 1992, he decided to focus his research career on TB/HIV and other infectious diseases declared global emergencies by WHO, after a heart-wrenching encounter with young children in Africa affected by the disease. During the lecture, he also mentioned how maintaining the unity of purpose with like-minded individuals to an upward trajectory of successes with the establishment of cross-continental, equitable research partnerships are closely aligned to training, charity and advocacy work. He also mentioned that in order to sustain and advance the future, all of their activities provides a focus on empowering younger generation scientists and health care workers in gender balance. Sir Alimuddin believes that, “as scientists, we need to look beyond the normal, and hold hands together with like-minded, selfless, and committed individuals across borders, as one pan-continental ONE-HUMAN-ANIMAL-HEALTH family, if we are to bring epidemic-prone infectious diseases under control”.

For the discourse session, the topic is ‘Do humans only exist to provide a culture medium for microbes?‘ and was moderated by Dr. Siti Khayriyyah Mohd Hanafiah, together with guest panelist Prof. Dato’ Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman. To summarise the discourse, the panelists were discussing based on the three (3) questions posed by the moderator,

  1. Why do some people have no symptoms at all while others become incapacitated and die from the same microbe?
  2. What are your thoughts about how these ancient microbes will continue to interact with their human media, especially when we consider the many ways we are changing our biosphere as well?
  3. How practical and important do you think personalized medicine for treating bacterial/viral infections will be in the future?

The moderator believes it is especially relevant to think and understand more about spectrum of diseases that follow the infection, even from the same microbe. Many different experts and researchers has provided their opinions on answering the questions posed above. Besides Sir Alimuddin and Prof. Dato’ Dr. Adeeba, the discussion was also participated by many other experts and researchers from health/medicine backgrounds, namely Prof Dorothy Yeboah-Manu (Ghana), Dr. John Tembo (Zambia), Dr. Linzy Elton (UK), Prof Richard Kock (Zimbabwe/UK), Dr. Jim Huggett (UK) and Prof Markus Maeurer (Portugal).


This is a summary of notes taken from the 2020 MSA Laureate: Public Lecture and Joint-Intellectual Discourse. To watch the recording of the Lecture (Session 1), click here and for the discourse (Session 2), click here.


Written by Nur Fatin Inani