At the press conference held on 7 December 2020, NSTDA announced three recipients to the NSTDA Research Chair Grants 2020. The three recipients are Prof. Prasert Auewarakul, M.D. of Mahidol University, Prof. Dr. Sakamon Devahastin Na Ayutthaya of King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi and Prof. Dr. Soottawat Benjakul of Prince of Songkla University. They were selected from 21 proposals. Each awardee receives a 20 million THB grant for a 5-year period to carry out high-impact research projects.

Prof. Prasert Auewarakul will utilize the grant to develop broad-spectrum antivirals using the following approaches: repurposed drugs acting on cellular machineries, new antivirals acting on tRNA modification, new antivirals acting on cellular lipid metabolism and nucleoside analogs localizing in cytoplasm. The broad-spectrum antivirals will help the country prepare for new pandemics and provide better therapy for important viral diseases.

In his project, Prof. Dr. Sakamon Devahastin Na Ayutthaya aims at developing and studying various technologies that can be used to produce food of the future - defined as food that is safe for consumption, promoting health and able to respond to the diverse needs of the consumers. Target products include highly stable natural food colorants, nanocellulosic fiber, functional coating materials and functional biological gels. In addition, the research team plans to compile a database containing constituents of and chemical residues in fruit and vegetable products and develop a mobile application allowing consumers to access information that can guide the purchase and/or consumption of food in a safer fashion.

In his project, Prof. Dr. Soottawat Benjakul proposes to develop safe and stable functional ingredient/nutraceutical and food additives from by-products of fish and shellfish processing. Multi-disciplinary approaches will be employed in the study, including the extraction and development of active compounds, the study on mechanism of target active component with the aid of proteomic technique and the studies in standardized gastrointestinal tract model system, animal and clinical trials. The research team aims to develop five major products, including shrimp oil and its fraction rich in astaxanthin to lower cholesterol, purified astaxanthin from shrimp oil for prevention of cardiovascular disesease, hydrolyzed collagen from tilapia skin for skin nourishment and bone strengthening, chitooligosaccharide from shrimp shell for prevention of hypertension and endothelial dysfunction as well as improvement of cognitive fucntioning, and active packaging based on shrimp shell chitosan.

NSTDA Research Chair Grant Program was established in 2009, with an aim to support high-potential researchers with a large-scale research fund worth up to 20 million THB per grant. Since its inception, the program has awarded 20 researchers for 23 projects. Among these recipients, 11 researchers are in medical science field, 2 in food and agriculture, 2 in manufacturing and services, 3 in energy and environment and 2 in construction field. These projects have resulted in numerous publications, prototypes, patents and graduate students.