Cancer remains a disease that has a severe impact on life expectancy and quality of life. In addition, estimates show that this disease costs the EU in the region of 143 billion Euros in healthcare and lost productivity.
The development of new treatments to manage and cure cancers, therefore, remains an important ongoing objective to modern societies. Through the MCST FUSION project AgentNovoBio, the University of Malta is contributing to this field by exploring the potential use of novel bioactive agents from endemic plants as treatments for the blood cancer leukaemia. The project, which started in 2019, builds on previous knowledge and aims to develop the technologies needed to allow scale up of the extraction and purification of key bioactive agents, intensively test the safety of these agents and establish the mechanism by which they operate.
Hon. Owen Bonnici, the Minister for Research, Innovation and Post-COVID-19 strategy visited the laboratories at the Biomedical Science Building and the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking at the University of Malta on Tuesday 11 May.
He was met by Rector Alfred J. Vella, who highlighted that cancer accounts for 29% of deaths in Malta and that research in this sector that may revolutionise the treatment of cancer with the possibility of reducing the incidence is more important than ever. The Minister was guided through the purification processes by Dr Marion Zammit Mangion, the principal investigator (PI) on the project, Dr Frederick Lia and Mr Neil Cutajar.
Mr Sam Cremona, from Ghajn Rasul Ltd, the partner company in the project, explained the industrial initiative in the project. The Minister then visited the cell culture facilities, where Dr Lucienne Vassallo Gatt and Professor Pierre Schembri Wismayer reported on the techniques used to assess the safety of the bioactive agents.
During the visit, Hon. Owen Bonnici congratulated Dr Zammit Mangion and the team, and reiterated the importance of such locally driven initiatives to drive a knowledge-based society, stressing that the key to fighting health issues lies in science.