Jardin Pharma and IIUM team up for Jardin Pharmabiotic Research Centre
Acknowledging the importance of industry-academia collaboration, Jardin Pharma Berhad (JPB) inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) to build a strategic partnership in R&D and talent development.
Together with the MoU signing, the company also launched Jardin Pharmabiotic Research Centre (JPRC), the first research centre in Malaysia that can produce probiotics for commercial purposes.
Research and development (R&D) is a crucial part of any industry as it helps companies create better products with innovation. Encouraging industry-university collaboration for R&D activities will benefit the parties involved and help the country develop a more skilled workforce and attract more investors.
One of the key advisors of JPRC, Assoc Prof Ts. Dr Mohd Hafiz Arzmi, the Deputy Dean of Kulliyyah of Dentistry, IIUM, said both parties decided on a collaborative project, particularly on developing the starter culture for probiotics. He shared that probiotics had been the main ingredient in most of the company’s pharmaceutical products, such as synbiotic toothpaste, eczema cream and gut health supplements.
“JPRC is located in Kedah. In this laboratory, we have various small laboratories, including a microbiology lab, where we purposely developed to culture various types of probiotics,” said Dr Mohd Hafiz.
“At first, we started with Streptococcus salivarius and did almost everything at my facility in the Kulliyyah of Dentistry, IIUM. It has been the key ingredient of many of the products at the beginning of the development of JPRC.”
Hafiz said there were many challenges in halal pharmaceuticals. One of them is the absence of a unified global halal standard and the differences in the interpretation and understanding of Shariah law. However, he believes the segment has a broad opportunity and potential as an academic.
On-going research projects
Hafiz, who has a background in vaccine development, shared that he had supervised the bacteria culture (Streptococcus salivarius) and worked on the project right after he started working at IIUM in 2017.
“In 2019, I filed for a patent in synbiotic. In 2022, I got the patent granted. I have obtained various grants, including the fundamental research grant, the prototype research grant, etc. From that, I started to bring attention to the local pharmaceutical industry, showing that we have local expertise in the area of probiotics, which for them are very important,” he shared, adding that the development of synbiotic toothpaste took three to four years of research.
Hafiz revealed that many ongoing research projects were happening at JPRC. One of them is research on stress relief supplements.
“Lately, we have various cases on mental health among youngsters and adults. With our knowledge, we combine all these studies and do some extensive research. It is not a medicine; we are not treating people with mental health problems, but we give supplements to assist in stress relief.”
He also highlighted that all products produced at JPRC were the results of R&D, and the centre recently embarked on postbiotic nanotechnology research.
Industry-university engagement is the key
Hafiz emphasised the importance of engagement between the industry and academia.
He noted that the government had spent a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money to fund research, and there should be successful products out of the investment. The same goes for the grants given by the industry to universities.
He said: “Previously, we didn’t have a close connection between the industry and university. For example, for cosmetic products, companies can purchase them in other countries and do rebranding.
“The industry-university engagement is the key. If you have research at the university, how do you ensure that the community will use the research? There is no other option except through the industry.”
Hafiz shared that the university had very limited capacity to do production, and some companies would need the university to conduct research and produce novel products. In other words, the university and industry complement one another.
“There is a crucial need for the industry to engage with the university.”
Sharing his experience in collaborating with the industry, Hafiz said the collaboration must start with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). The reason for the NDA is to protect the intellectual property.
“When you want to bridge the gap between academia and the industry, you must build trust. Based on my experience, I offer my expertise rather than waiting for the industry to come to you to offer the opportunity.”
He said universities could also place their postgraduate students in the industry and conduct R&D there. At the same time, the industry can attach their staff to the university as postgraduate students and have their projects supervised by the people from the university or the industry. Based on this engagement, the university will know the industry’s needs. – The Health