Updated on 5 February 2013
Professor Yongyuth Yuthavong, distinguished scientist and former science and technology minister, Thailand
Thailand is on the verge of getting its first indigenously developed drug, an oral anti-malarial drug, that acts against the dihydrofolate reductase target in the Plasmodium. Leading this initiative from the front is Prof Yongyuth Yuthavong, the former science and technology minister of the country, who is also a distinguished scientist of the country. The researcher-turned-policymaker, Prof Yuthavong has over four decades of experience in the field of research and is well-known for his interests in biochemistry and chemotherapy of malaria.
He is also among the select few science and technology ministers of any country to be actively involved in research. Talking about the change from being a researcher to a policymaker, he says, "It is an important transition in that you shift from your own intrinsic interest in a specific area of science to the broad interest of the public in building the system for science and technology and applications in industry, health, agriculture and everyday life."
He adds that he did not find the transition to be a drastic change "because I always had double interests in both my own research and broader policy". "I was the only minister of Thailand who conducted research seminars at my office." He held the post of science and technology minister from 2006 to 2008.
Boosting Thailand's science and technology efforts
After high school in Bangkok and two years of pre-medicine at the University of Medical Sciences, also in Bangkok, he went to the University of London in 1966 on a Thai government scholarship to obtain a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He followed it up with a doctoral degree in organic chemistry at the University of Oxford and returned to Thailand to spend some years researching and teaching at Mahidol University in Thailand.
One of the key achievements of Prof Yuthavong's career has been the establishment of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) of Thailand. He became the first president of the agency after it was set up in 1992.