In News & Reports

By Rimon al-Rawy – Watani
Additional Reporting: Prestigious prize for study into liver cancer diagnosis and treatment – Newcastle University

The people of Minya (also written Minia), some 250km south of Cairo, have taken to social media to applaud Minya pharmacist Marco Zaki as the first Egyptian to be among a team that won the prestigious Newton Prize.

Pictures of Dr Zaki’s smiling face were splashed across Facebook’s Minia personal and group pages, adorned with the Egyptian flag or pharaonic symbols. He was labelled as “Marco, the great Egyptian”.

The Newton Prize celebrates outstanding international research partnerships that play an important role in addressing challenges in developing countries and around the world.

Dr Zaki, lecturer of biochemistry and cell biology at Minia University and PhD student at Newcastle University, was working on a joint project between the two universities to reach ways to halt the progression of liver cancer by finding biomarkers in the blood. Together with Professors Fiona Oakley and Helen Reeves, the research aims to better understand liver cancer by identifying new diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in the blood to halt the progression of the disease. Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide; according to Dr Zaki, 25 per cent of cancer patients in Egypt are liver cancer patients. It develops from chronic liver diseases, including cirrhosis, fibrosis, viral hepatitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The research project could improve the life expectancy of more than half of liver cancer patients.

Dr Zaki told the media that half the sum of his share of the prize money will go to further the liver cancer research project at Newcastle university, whereas the other half will go to Minia University’s Faculty of Pharmacy to establish a molecular biology laboratory.

The Newton Prize is a £1 million fund which was launched in 2016 to recognise the excellent research and innovation the Newton Fund has invested in since its establishment in 2014. It celebrates the best partnerships between the UK and some 17 Newton Fund countries among which is Egypt, and encourages new international collaborations to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Newton Prize 2020 celebrated projects with Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, South Africa, and Turkey.

The Newton Fund builds outstanding research and innovation partnerships with select countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to support economic development and social welfare, tackle global challenges and develop talent and careers. The fund is managed by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered by UK and international partners. UK investment is matched by investment and resources from partner countries.

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