Dato' Dr Gan Ee Kiang
International Medical University (IMU)’s Chancellor Dato’ Dr Gan Ee Kiang is often regarded as one of the first pharmacologists in Malaysia. His passion and dedication to his craft earned him global honours which helped pave the way for the future of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmaceuticals in the country. His accolades include the curating of syllabi for Universiti Sains Malaysia to establishing the Drug Research Centre in 1978, the National Poison Centre in 1994 and the National Doping Control Centre in 1996. He has been recognised on an international scale by the International Health Advisory Panel of The United Sates Pharmacopeia Convention and is also an advisor to the Malaysian Society of Pharmaceutical Trade and Manufacturers Association.
Dato’ Dr Gan Ee Kiang was born in Alma, a small town in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, on 23 June 1944. Driven by his passion for education, Dato’ Dr Gan completed his secondary studies in Bukit Mertajam High School and moved to Australia in 1963 to further his studies. In Australia, he quickly enrolled in Coburg High School in Melbourne, where he completed his matriculation before pursuing Pharmacology in the University of Western Australia where he earned his Honours.
When asked about his life’s accomplishments that he was most proud of, Dato’ Dr Gan said “that would be completing my Doctorate in two and half years; advancing the School ofPharmaceutical Sciences (USM) to be the premier institution in the region, and launching and successfully managing the first commercial arm of the university, the USAINS Group of Companies”.
Following his graduation, Dato’ Dr Gan was awarded the National Health and Medical Research Council scholarship to pursue his PhD. During this period, Dato’ Dr Gan had the opportunity to collaborate with his mentor, the late Emeritus Professor M. F. Lockett. “She was the first female professor in Australia and a world renowned Pharmacologist from the University of London who spent her entire life researching in pharmacology. She supervised my PhD and was a great source of inspiration,” he said.
“The University of Western Australia has named a hall in remembrance of her. I was most honoured to have been invited to deliver a guest lecture at that hall.” In 1972, Dato’ Dr Gan achieved his PhD through his research on Intra-renal Secretion of Renin.
After establishing himself in the field of Pharmacology, Dato’ Dr Gan decided to expand his horizons and found his path leading him to becoming an educator. He finally decided to return home to Penang, by accepting a job at Universiti Sains Malaysia, then known as Universiti Pulau Pinang. From there, he was involved for more than 40 years in the fields of pharmacology, pharmaceuticals and drug-related research. During his time he also managed to lead the university to be an innovative global centre of excellence in learning and research by supporting a community of scholars and professionals to create value through integrating education, health care and research. Widely recognised as a pioneer in the field of clinical pharmacology, Dato’ Dr Gan is no stranger to overcoming monumental tasks and handling pressure – from establishing syllabi to becoming a member of the Health Advisory Panel by the United States Pharmacopeia Convention (USP).
As one of the first few Pharmacologists in Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Gan felt there was a need to place Pharmacology in the sight of the future generations. He achieved that by placing Malaysian research and capability in global sights, by collaborating with the late Professor William Stanley Peart in assisting to purify the peptide hormone angiotensin and determine its structure. This further strengthened, Dato’ Dr Gan’s standing as an international authority on the renin-angiotensin system which is a hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluids.
His achievement was a milestone for USM’s pharmacy education and established USM as a credible research centre. This then led to the establishment of the Clinical Pharmacy Programme which was emulated by other educational faculties across the region.
After establishing the Clinical Pharmacy Programme, Dato’ Dr Gan took pharmaceutical education a step further by introducing the Masters in Clinical Pharmacy Programme and setting up the Bioequivalent Studies Laboratory which paved the way for oday’s national level clinical studies.
In 1978, when Dato’ Dr Gan was Deputy Dean of the School of Pharmaceuticals in USM, he supported the establishment of the Drug Research centre – the first national drug centre designated to undertake research for developing policies and guidelines for drug abuse programmes in Malaysia.
After the centre was set up, it evolved and while working closely with the Cabinet Committee on Drug Abuse Control, the centre was eventually renamed the Centre for Drug Research (1985) and received international recognition by the World Health Organization, in the area of analytical methodology and clinical pharmacy in relation to drug development. This eventually led to the Centre for Drug Research being recognised by international bodies such as UN Narcotics Commission and the UN office on drugs just four years after the establishment.
Talking about the success of the drug education and research efforts that he pioneered, Dato’ Dr Gan modestly said, “It was the outcome of a visionary group of academics who wanted to make an impact on the drug related challenges faced by the nation. As the Dean of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences I proactively supported this programme as a noble venture.” Continuing he said, “One of the biggest challenges was to build trust and cooperation with the agencies and victims. The success is the result of the joint efforts of persons from the university and from international organisations.”
Dato’ Dr Gan later went on to establish the National Poison Centre (formerly IDPIS USM) in 1994 resulting in the expansion of services to drug and poison information, education and prevention to research, documentation and eventually toxicology. Two years later, he was approached yet again to set up the National Doping Control Centre in 1996 – now known as the Analytical Biochemistry Research Centre (ABrC) – which also assisted in testing athletes at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and 2017
Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Dato’ Dr Gan was internationally recognised for his work in Malaysian pharmaceuticals when he was appointed as a member for the international Health Advisory Panel by the United States Pharmacopeia Convention (USP) from 1990 to 1995. He was the first and only Malaysian to be given this honour. He is also an advisor to the Malaysian Society of Pharmaceutical Trade and Manufacturers Association.
From 2000 to 2013, Dato’ Dr Gan led the development of USAINS Group as the Founding Group Managing Director. USAINS became the first company in Malaysia to be set up by a public university with a sustainable commercial model. He was also responsible in directing USAINS into becoming a successful model for a private-public partnership in R&D industry offering research services and serving as a referral centre to reputable international agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, World Health Organisation and the Rockefeller Foundation. USAINS was also the first university incubator to receive MSC status in 2002.
Dato’ Dr Gan’s passion comes from his innate nature to be curious and his love of development. He is a firm believer that the technology that is available will be able to propel Malaysia to greater heights. Throughout his career, he successfully licensed out around three patents and nine technologies owned by Universiti Sains Malaysia – all in the medical sector - to be produced and marketed by Malaysian Bio-Diagnostics Research Sdn Bhd.
Recollecting his experiences, Dato’ Dr Gan said, “Initially it was exhilarating, but slowly the task of developing and advancing pharmacy education for the whole nation became a passion,” he said. “Now in the environment of Industrial Revolution 4.0, the government and the system have to encourage the younger generation to think out of the box, or even beyond the box,” he stressed adding, “There are no short cuts, though we can search for smart ways to address societal challenges, however determination, perseverance and staying focused are still the corner stone of success. The authorities must formulate rogrammes that provide wide exposure to our young scientists.”
“Always Give Your Best Shot in Whatever You Do”.
Message to young Malaysians
“Be focused and be committed. Be prepared to work hard and smart. Remember failures are often just stepping stones to ultimate success”.