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News > Profiles > In Profile: Dr Elena Azizan

In Profile: Dr Elena Azizan

ISKL IB Scholar from the Class of 2005 now working at the frontline of research into Covid-19.

12 Jun 2020
Dr. Elena Azizan ('05)
Dr. Elena Azizan ('05)

ISKL IB Scholar from the Class of 2005 now working at the frontline of research into Covid-19.

“ISKL IB education was very useful for me as it gave me the first taste of research which I did through the extended essay in Chemistry with Mrs Goh.” Dr. Elena Azizan (‘05) was awarded an IB Scholarship in 2003, an opportunity she says had a profound impact on her future career. She continues, “It...shaped my  passion for scientific research which resulted in a postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge and led me to my current choice of career as a research lecturer in UKMMC (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre).”

That career now finds Elena at the forefront of Malaysia’s research into the infectivity of Covid-19. This May she received a grant of RM50,000 to undertake “a pilot study assessing angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) expression in the infectivity and severity of COVID-19”. As international efforts to understand the virus continue apace, Elena sees her research as an important part of the puzzle. She explains, “I hope this research would provide some much needed data on ACE2 in regards to human infectivity of SARS-CoV-2.”

The research is important because ACE2, or angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, is a protein on the surface of many cell types that the virus attaches to, effectively using it as a gateway into the cell. Understanding how that process works may help to combat the virus’ spread. However, Elena cautions that it will take time, “As this is just a pilot research, more experiments after this would be needed to confirm the findings.”

Elena began her post-ISKL academic career at the University of Leeds, studying Pharmacology, before going on to Cambridge. For her research into ACE2, she is working with a large team and is being advised by her old Cambridge supervisor, Professor Morris Brown, who is now at Queen Mary University London.

Although her PhD was in medicine, Elena always knew she wanted to work in medical research. She says being offered the ISKL IB Scholarship, after completing her Malaysian SPM at local school, helped pave the way for her future studies in the UK, explaining, “IB education allowed me effortlessly to enter the UK university of my choice as it was accepted worldwide. Further, the faculty, infrastructure, and environment in ISKL allowed for not only an academic experience but also involvement with dance, theater, arts and the sports field.” 

Favorite memories of ISKL? Performing in the Malay cultural dance team, drama class, and being part of the executive team where she was treasurer in her final year.

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