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MARGMA eyes 10pc export growth to RM18b in 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) is hopeful of achieving more than 10 per cent export growth to RM18 billion this year, as global demand surpasses supply.

"This year, rubber glove exports should expand by more than 10 per cent to RM18 billion, from last year's RM16.20 billion," said Margma president Denis Low Jau Foo.

“In the first two months of the year, we have shipped out RM2.86 billion worth of gloves. That is 12 per cent more than last year’s first two months of RM2.54 billion,” he told NST Business in an interview here.

Margma represents 90 per cent of local glove manufacturers. Malaysia is the world’s top supplier of rubber gloves. All over the world, rubber gloves are used in the healthcare, food-handling and other industries.

Glove-making giants listed on Bursa Malaysia include Top Glove Corp Bhd, Hartalega Holdings Bhd, Supermax Corp Bhd and Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd. They export medical gloves, a healthcare necessity, to over 190 countries.

BIMB Securities Research has a ‘buy’ call on Top Glove’s shares and thinks the glovemaker’s share price can rise as high as RM11.40 from the current RM9.85. The analyst is bullish on Top Glove’s earnings as it will book in higher profits, following the purchase of sizeable rival Aspion Sdn Bhd.

MIDF Research maintained its ‘buy’ call on Supermax as the glovemaker is receiving higher glove orders from China and eastern Europe. Supermax’s new glove production lines in Klang are expected to come onstream in the quarters ahead to meet these additional demand.

Hong Leong Investment Bank rated Kossan as ‘neutral’ and sees its share price inching up further to RM8.90 from the current RM8.70, citing the glovemaker’s subdivision of one share into two by the third quarter of this year will promote liquidity. Kossan’s additional lines of three billion pieces will boost this year’s revenue and earnings.

JP Morgan placed a ‘neutral’ outlook on Hartalega as it felt that upside volume and earnings is hampered by the glovemaker’s capacity constraint. Hartalega’s 1-for-1 bonus issue which has taken effect by the end of the first quarter has buoyed the share price at a high of RM6.20.

In giving a better insight into the business, Low cited Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council’s (MREPC) data highlighting global consumption rate of medical gloves is averaging at 25 pairs.

In China, however, the per capita usage is only four pairs while in India, it is three pairs.

"There's room for growth in Malaysia's rubber glove exports, especially from emerging markets. MREPC and MARGMA are working very hard to help raise hygiene awareness in the healthcare sector,” he said.

“Hospitals, dental clinics and nursing homes are placing more orders of medical gloves for the protection against cross contamination among healthcare workers and patients alike."

“The industry’s ability to consistently churn out high quality medical devices at affordable pricing through innovation ensures our global lead,” he added.

When asked on challenges the industry faces, Low noted as the ringgit strengthens against the US dollar, manufacturers have no choice but to raise glove prices accordingly to protect shareholders’ interests.

“It is normal for manufacturers to pass on costs to buyers as we work on a cost-plus basis. The production of medical gloves is capital intensive and the return on investments is the driver for the industry’s sustained growth," he said.

Original article featured in New Straits Times, article can be accessed here.

Malaysia still Taiwanese investors' favourite

KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 (Bernama) – Malaysia remains Taiwanese companies’ favourite investment destination, judging from the cumulative investment of US$12.4 billion (US$1 = RM3.94) as at last September, said Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia Representative James Chang Chi-Ping.

He said the Taiwanese investors were mainly involved in the manufacturing, electronic, biotechnology and high-technology related sectors, investing about US$110 million in Malaysia in 2016.

“We believe the value would be even greater for 2017, as an electronic investment of about RM1 billion alone had been approved last year,” he told reporters after officiating the second edition of the Taiwan Excellence 2018 here, today.

The three-day event, starting today, serves as a promotional platform to raise awareness and interest among Malaysians on Taiwan’s breakthroughs, culture and traditions.

About 100 products ranging from beauty, home living, sports, as well as information and communications technology from 33 Taiwanese companies are being showcased at the event.

Chang believes with the strong presence of Taiwanese firms totalling 1,700 in Malaysia, coupled with the New Southbound Policy launched in August 2016 and close relationship between the two economies, the two-way trade would grow about 10 per cent in 2018 from US$17.56 billion last year.

In his opening remarks, Chang said Taiwan’s total imports from Malaysia rose 14.5 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) to US$7.19 billion last year, while exports to Malaysia jumped 32.7 per cent y-o-y to US$10.67 billion.

“Malaysia was Taiwan’s seventh largest trading partner in 2017 (2016: eighth), while Taiwan was Malaysia’s fourth largest investor after Japan, the United States and Singapore last year,” he said.

On halal segment, Chang said 150 hotels and restaurants in Taiwan, as well as more than 800 Taiwanese products had obtained the halal certification from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia thus far.

“We will continue our efforts to make Taiwan a Muslim-friendly destination,” he said, adding that Muslims made up one-tenth of the 528,000 Malaysian tourist arrivals on the island last year.

Original article featured in New Straits Times, article can be accessed here.

Notable Highlights on Malaysia’s Budget 2018

Photo credits: The Star
On 27 October 2017, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the Budget for 2018 in Parliament. Here are some of the notable highlights for the lab equipment market:
Education Sector:

  • RM400 million for research and development grants is provided to Public Higher Learning Institutions (IPTAs), compared with RM235 million allocated previously
  • Special allocation for University of Malaya to achieve the status of Top 100 Universities in the World

Healthcare Sector:

  • RM2.5 billion to be allocated for medical supplies
  • RM1.6 billion for consumable and medical support items
  • RM1.4 billion is allocated for upgrading and maintaining healthcare facilities, medical equipment and ambulances.
  • A sum of RM100 million is allocated to upgrade hospitals and clinics, including wiring systems
  • Construction of international forensic medical service centre at Kuala Lumpur Hospital with a cost of RM380 million

The full budget speech can be read The Star article here.
Further details on the healthcare sector can be read from MIMS Today article here.

Huge increase in R&D grants

PETALING JAYA: Public universities will be receiving a substantial boost in grants for research and development (R&D) purposes.

Describing R&D as vital in bolstering innovation and knowledge, Universiti Malaya (UM) deputy vice-chancellor (Research & Innovation) Prof Dr Noorsaadah Abd Rahman said the budget increase would provide the opportunities for Malaysia to compete at a global level.

“If Malaysia intends to be a developed, high-income nation, we need to have our own knowledge and technology rather than continuously buying them from other countries.

“Without R&D, we will be forever subservient to others,” she added.

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) vice-chancellor Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Said thanked the Government for the huge increase in the R&D allocation for public universities.

“This will enhance research capabilities and provide greater opportunities for innovation and commercialisation by local researchers,” he said.

He added the R&D allocation would also put local universities on par with many top foreign universities.

Educationist Datuk Dr T. Marimuthu said the 7% target for Indian students to enter higher education institutions, is much needed.

“We need a quota system for now because many Indians are in the B40 category, or bottom 40% of households.

“Eventually our students must compete on merit but for now, we need help.

“Ensuring that Indians have a place in university is important but the government must also address the social-economic issues plaguing the community,” he said, adding that many Indians drop out of school without sitting for the SPM.

“They have the brains to compete on merit but issues like poverty and social ills among the youth must first be addressed,” he said.

  • Research and development grants to public universities increased to RM400mil from RM235mil allocated in previous budgets.
  • Special allocation for Universiti Malaya to achieve Top 100 Universities in the World status in the near future.
  • RM90mil for MyBrain Programme for 10,600 individuals to further their studies in Masters and PhD.
  • New intake of Indians to public universities will be increased to a targeted 7%.

Lab Upgrades to Attract More Science Students

PUTRAJAYA, March 1 — Science laboratories in schools nationwide need urgent upgrades to narrow the gap between Science and Arts students in Form Six, said the Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

This year, there are 37,033 students in the Arts or Social Science stream and 6,202 in the Science stream, he said.

“This is a problem we are facing, that Science stream students are very much lacking in schools,” added Mahdzir when announcing the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) 2016 results at a press conference yesterday.

“Under equipped Science labs are the cause for this imbalance. In addressing this issue, we hope 2017 will be the year all schools will have proper labs, so that our students’ potential can be fully harnessed.”

Mahdzir said the ministry would be buying apparatus for the labs and reinforcing practical Science classes from Form 4 onwards.

He said the divide between Science and Arts students was beyond schools.

The lack of Science stream students would cause a strain on talent in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) if not addressed quickly.

“STEM is very important, and we cannot allow the imbalance to continue,” he said.

“We lack students in these areas based on statistical research carried out in 22 public universities.”

Mahdzir said the lack of Science stream students stemmed mainly from local day-to-day schools.

“Most of our boarding and high-performance schools are fully equipped for what is needed,” he said.

In September last year, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau said Malaysia was facing a shortage of talent in areas related to STEM.

He said the government needed to study why students were not interested in STEM-related careers.

Madius also said it was Malaysia’s hope to reach a 60:40 ratio of Science to non-Science graduates by 2020.

The target, introduced in 1967, was to see 270,000 students take up Science and Technology in their tertiary studies.

G25, a group of  high-ranking retired civil servants, had also predicted in 2015 Malaysia may fall behind other Asian countries if a policy for STEM was not introduced.

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Read the original article here

Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2016

(Solna, Sweden) The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet announced in a press release on 3rd October 2016, that the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.

Summary

This year's Nobel Laureate discovered and elucidated mechanisms underlying autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.

The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning "self", and phagein, meaning "to eat". Thus,autophagy denotes "self-eating". This concept emerged during the 1960's, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation. Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant that little was known until, in a series of brilliant experiments in the early 1990's, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker's yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy. He then went on to elucidate the underlying mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in our cells.

Ohsumi's discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions including cancer and neurological disease.

Degradation – a central function in all living cells

In the mid 1950's scientists observed a new specialized cellular compartment, called an organelle, containing enzymes that digest proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. This specialized compartment is referred to as a "lysosome" and functions as a workstation for degradation of cellular constituents. The Belgian scientist Christian de Duve was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for the discovery of the lysosome. New observations during the 1960's showed that large amounts of cellular content, and even whole organelles, could sometimes be found inside lysosomes. The cell therefore appeared to have a strategy for delivering large cargo to the lysosome. Further biochemical and microscopic analysis revealed a new type of vesicle transporting cellular cargo to the lysosome for degradation (Figure 1). Christian de Duve, the scientist behind the discovery of the lysosome, coined the term autophagy, "self-eating", to describe this process. The new vesicles were named autophagosomes.

Figure 1: Our cells have different specialized compartments. Lysosomes constitute one such compartment and contain enzymes for digestion of cellular contents. A new type of vesicle called autophagosome was observed within the cell. As the autophagosome forms, it engulfs cellular contents, such as damaged proteins and organelles. Finally, it fuses with the lysosome, where the contents are degraded into smaller constituents. This process provides the cell with nutrients and building blocks for renewal.

During the 1970's and 1980's researchers focused on elucidating another system used to degrade proteins, namely the "proteasome". Within this research field Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose were awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation". The proteasome efficiently degrades proteins one-by-one, but this mechanism did not explain how the cell got rid of larger protein complexes and worn-out organelles. Could the process of autophagy be the answer and, if so, what were the mechanisms?

A groundbreaking experiment

Yoshinori Ohsumi had been active in various research areas, but upon starting his own lab in 1988, he focused his efforts on protein degradation in the vacuole, an organelle that corresponds to the lysosome in human cells. Yeast cells are relatively easy to study and consequently they are often used as a model for human cells. They are particularly useful for the identification of genes that are important in complex cellular pathways. But Ohsumi faced a major challenge; yeast cells are small and their inner structures are not easily distinguished under the microscope and thus he was uncertain whether autophagy even existed in this organism. Ohsumi reasoned that if he could disrupt the degradation process in the vacuole while the process of autophagy was active, then autophagosomes should accumulate within the vacuole and become visible under the microscope. He therefore cultured mutated yeast lacking vacuolar degradation enzymes and simultaneously stimulated autophagy by starving the cells. The results were striking! Within hours, the vacuoles were filled with small vesicles that had not been degraded (Figure 2). The vesicles were autophagosomes and Ohsumi's experiment proved that authophagy exists in yeast cells. But even more importantly, he now had a method to identify and characterize key genes involved this process. This was a major break-through and Ohsumi published the results in 1992.

Figure 2: In yeast (left panel) a large compartment called the vacuole corresponds to the lysosome in mammalian cells. Ohsumi generated yeast lacking vacuolar degradation enzymes. When these yeast cells were starved, autophagosomes rapidly accumulated in the vacuole (middle panel). His experiment demonstrated that autophagy exists in yeast. As a next step, Ohsumi studied thousands of yeast mutants (right panel) and identified 15 genes that are essential for autophagy.

Autophagy genes are discovered

Ohsumi now took advantage of his engineered yeast strains in which autophagosomes accumulated during starvation. This accumulation should not occur if genes important for autophagy were inactivated. Ohsumi exposed the yeast cells to a chemical that randomly introduced mutations in many genes, and then he induced autophagy. His strategy worked! Within a year of his discovery of autophagy in yeast, Ohsumi had identified the first genes essential for autophagy. In his subsequent series of elegant studies, the proteins encoded by these genes were functionally characterized. The results showed that autophagy is controlled by a cascade of proteins and protein complexes, each regulating a distinct stage of autophagosome initiation and formation (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Ohsumi studied the function of the proteins encoded by key autophagy genes. He delineated how stress signals initiate autophagy and the mechanism by which proteins and protein complexes promote distinct stages of autophagosome formation.

Autophagy – an essential mechanism in our cells

After the identification of the machinery for autophagy in yeast, a key question remained. Was there a corresponding mechanism to control this process in other organisms? Soon it became clear that virtually identical mechanisms operate in our own cells. The research tools required to investigate the importance of autophagy in humans were now available.

Thanks to Ohsumi and others following in his footsteps, we now know that autophagy controls important physiological functions where cellular components need to be degraded and recycled. Autophagy can rapidly provide fuel for energy and building blocks for renewal of cellular components, and is therefore essential for the cellular response to starvation and other types of stress. After infection, autophagy can eliminate invading intracellular bacteria and viruses. Autophagy contributes to embryo development and cell differentiation. Cells also use autophagy to eliminate damaged proteins and organelles, a quality control mechanism that is critical for counteracting the negative consequences of aging.

Disrupted autophagy has been linked to Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and other disorders that appear in the elderly. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause genetic disease. Disturbances in the autophagic machinery have also been linked to cancer. Intense research is now ongoing to develop drugs that can target autophagy in various diseases.

Autophagy has been known for over 50 years but its fundamental importance in physiology and medicine was only recognized after Yoshinori Ohsumi's paradigm-shifting research in the 1990's. For his discoveries, he is awarded this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Key publications

Takeshige, K., Baba, M., Tsuboi, S., Noda, T. and Ohsumi, Y. (1992). Autophagy in yeast demonstrated with proteinase-deficient mutants and conditions for its induction. Journal of Cell Biology 119, 301-311

Tsukada, M. and Ohsumi, Y. (1993). Isolation and characterization of autophagy-defective mutants of Saccharomyces cervisiae. FEBS Letters 333, 169-174

Mizushima, N., Noda, T., Yoshimori, T., Tanaka, Y., Ishii, T., George, M.D., Klionsky, D.J., Ohsumi, M. and Ohsumi, Y. (1998). A protein conjugation system essential for autophagy. Nature 395, 395-398

Ichimura, Y., Kirisako T., Takao, T., Satomi, Y., Shimonishi, Y., Ishihara, N., Mizushima, N., Tanida, I., Kominami, E., Ohsumi, M., Noda, T. and Ohsumi, Y. (2000). A ubiquitin-like system mediates protein lipidation. Nature, 408, 488-492

Yoshinori Ohsumi was born 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan. He received a Ph.D. from University of Tokyo in 1974. After spending three years at Rockefeller University, New York, USA, he returned to the University of Tokyo where he established his research group in 1988. He is since 2009 a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The Nobel Assembly, consisting of 50 professors at Karolinska Institutet, awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Its Nobel Committee evaluates the nominations. Since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded to scientists who have made the most important discoveries for the benefit of mankind.

Source: Nobel Prize Press Release