Discovery of this young Pakistani from Griffith University will eventually save tens of thousands of lives a year

Pakistani
Bilal Zulfiqar I Photo: Griffith University

11 June 2017: A young PhD candidate from Pakistan undertaking research activities at Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery has just made a life-saving discovery for patients of Leishmaniasis, also known as kala azar. Every year the disease kills tens of thousands of people around the world including in the South Asian region.

Bilal Zulfiqar, who received his Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree from Pakistan’s Hamdard University in 2008, has been researching at Griffith University’s Brisbane-based facility for the past few years. He moved to Australia to join the Discovery Biology Group as a PhD candidate where his main focus is the identification and biological characterisation of novel pharmacologically active compounds against kala azar, the university‘s website said.

According to a report by SBS journalist Stefan Armbruster, Mr Zulfiqar has discovered two compounds which could eventually lead to a cure to the flesh eating disease that leaves horrible lesions on the patients. It is endemic to his native Pakistan as well as neighbouring Afghanistan.

It may be years, however, before the Pakistani PhD candidate’s discovery is exploited to make oral medicine, the SBS report said. The remarkable young researcher has nonetheless given hope to millions of people around the world.

Kala azar results from the bite of female Phelbotomus sandfly which leaves the parasitic Leishmaniasis infection in the victim.

“It’s very exciting, we’ve found two compounds,” Mr Zulfiqar was quoted as saying. “People have screened one-million compounds and then get one hit, and so I was pretty lucky to identify the hits I got,” he further added.

Mr Zulfiqar has impressed peers far and wide. He has received funding to attend the Sao Paulo School of Advanced Science on Neglected Diseases Drug Discovery which will be held in the city of Campinas from June 14 to 24.

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