Fijian scientist joins cancer fight at Eskitis

Fijian Scientific Officer Mr Rohitesh Kumar

Fijian scientist, Mr Rohitesh Kumar (pictured) will spend the next six months working on a cancer drug discovery project at Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute.

A scientific officer at the Institute of Applied Sciences at The University of the South Pacific in Fiji, Mr Kumar is this year’s recipient of the Greg Urwin Award.

Funded by AusAID, these awards were established in 2008 to honour the former Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and are co-administered by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the AusAID Pacific Leadership Program.

Mr Kumar will be working with Dr Rohan Davis, a Research Member of the Eskitis Institute whose research focuses on the identification of new bioactive chemical compounds from nature.

“We are very pleased to welcome Rohitesh to Eskitis,” Dr Davis said.

“His important research work will be in identifying cytotoxic natural products from rainforest fungi and Great Barrier Reef marine sponges.”

All compounds isolated by Rohitesh will be tested against human breast, lung and prostate cancer cell lines, and highly-active compounds will be further evaluated for their potential as anti-cancer agents.

This project follows on from Mr Kumar’s current research into isolating and identifying compounds from sponges and soft corals that have an effect on cancer or harmful microorganisms.

“There is great potential for this research as such compounds could potentially be developed into new drugs,” Rohitesh said.

“Scientifically, a new compound which can cure any of the deadly diseases would be a great gift to the people,” he said.

“Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases, and I would like to help people affected by this disease in any way possible.”

Mr Kumar hopes to serve as an inspiration to other science students in the Pacific considering the rich natural resources we have that can be turned into medicines.