Malaysian Virologist Featured In DC’s ‘Wonderful Women’ Comic

The comic, illustrated by local artist Nur Hanie Mohd, highlights Prof Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff’s research on the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), a poultry virus that could be used for cancer treatment.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — DC Comics has highlighted Malaysian virologist and microbiologist Professor Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff in a new graphic novel anthology celebrating the 80th anniversary of superhero Wonder Woman.

The 202-page “Wonderful Women of the World” anthology by the American powerhouse comic book publisher, published in September this year, features stories and illustrations of 23 “pioneering women” from around the world in the fields of science, sports, activism, and diplomacy, among others, ranging from tennis icon Serena Williams and superstar singer Beyoncé, to astronaut Ellen Ochoa and the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The young adult anthology on real-world heroes taking up the mantle of the Princess Diana of Themyscira has five different sections — Strength, Compassion, Justice, Truth, and Equality.

Khatijah is featured under the “Truth” section, alongside climate change activist and educator Francisca Nneka Okeke from Nigeria, American disability activist Judith Heumann, and Brazilian water scientist Márcia Barbosa.

The comic, illustrated by local artist Nur Hanie Mohd, highlighted Khatijah’s extensive work on the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV), a poultry virus that is not harmful to human cells, that could be used as an alternative treatment for cancer. The short story also featured the works of writer Amanda Deibert and colourist Shari Chankhamma.

DC’s Wonderful Women of the World, edited by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a continuation of a feature from 1942 to 1954 in DC’s Wonder Woman comics that highlighted “powerful and innovative women from history”. 

Wonder Woman — an Amazon whose civilian name is Diana Prince — is a founding member of the Justice League with super strength and magic weaponry who promotes peace, justice, and equality.

Prof Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff and her work on the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) is featured in DC’s new graphic novel anthology, Wonderful Women of the World. Picture from Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Facebook page.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), in a Facebook post on Tuesday, shared a segment of the comic book strip with a caption that read: “Her (Khatijah’s) excellence in microbiology and virology was recognised by DC which showcased her initiatives in innovative research of the fowl pox-based recombinant virus or NDV.”

Khatijah has played an instrumental role at UPM, having served as former dean of the public university’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, among her other contributions.

Elsewhere on social media, Malaysia Genome and Vaccine Institute (MGVI) director Ghows Azzam today also tweeted about the comic book feature. “Prof Khatijah is also one of the top vaccine experts in Malaysia from @uputramalaysia who will be working closely with MGVI.” 

Khatijah’s work on NDV covers the first complete sequence of the L gene, epitope mapping of the haemagglutinin-neuraminidase and fusion proteins, and the molecular biology of local NDV strains, including the challenge strain AF2240 and a heat-stable vaccine strain V4.

She has received numerous recognitions, both locally and internationally, for her research and contributions in microbiology. 

In 2005, Khatijah became the second Asian scientist to be accorded UNESCO’s Carlos Finlay Prize for microbiology. She was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia in 2007 and a Fellow of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences in 2008 and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2010.

Khatijah was picked as one of six individuals to receive the prestigious Merdeka Award in 2015. Joint recipients of the award that year included Dr Jemilah Mahmood, Prof Dr Abdul Latiff Mohamad, Prof Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, Prof Dr Ir Mohd Ali Hashim, and Dr Elizabeth Lesley Bennett.

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