Advance Awards 2020: Introducing the Asia Impact Award Finalists


Cat Thao Nguyen is a trailblazer. Cat Thao (Nguyễn Cát Thảo) is the Managing Director of Global Ready LLC and Lumina Learning Partner, assisting organisations and individuals to lead inclusively in a globalised world. Born in a refugee camp in Thailand and arriving in Australia in 1980, Cat Thao’s memoir, We Are Here, shares the compelling story of her family’s treacherous journey leaving Vietnam by foot across the Cambodian Killing Fields and their life as new migrants in 1980s Australia. Cat Thao’s career has evolved with the economic growth of Vietnam, including roles in corporate law, private equity, international education, and now with her own company advising globalising businesses. She has been at the forefront of trade, cooperation and cultural ties between Vietnam and Australia, playing a significant role in the rapidly changing bilateral relationship.

Moving to Ho Chi Minh City in 2007, Cat Thao Nguyen worked as a corporate lawyer prior to becoming the Vietnam/Cambodia chief strategy officer for a multi-billion dollar investment private equity fund focused on healthcare & education. In 2013, she helped to establish and was the managing head of Ernst & Young Law Vietnam LLC.  In 2016, she co-founded the Australia Vietnam Young Leadership Dialogue, to bring leaders from both Vietnam and Australia to accelerate contribution to prosperity, sustainability and social justice. Until 2019, she was Regional Director for an Australian education company, UTS: INSEARCH, and management board member of two affiliate joint ventures in Vietnam and Myanmar. Cat Thao was the first Asian-Australian to be the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations General Assembly. She was formerly Board Chair of Loreto Vietnam education charity and Board Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam. In 2018, at the invitation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and as a writer for the 2018 Global Goalkeepers report, she attended the Goalkeepers global young leaders conference in New York. She is the first person from Vietnam to be certified by the Cultural Intelligence Center (USA) to support her cultural intelligence advisory services. Cat Thao is currently completing a Doctoral program at the University of Technology in Sydney. 


Thomas Ko is an internationally recognised expert in oral biological drug delivery and sports medicine. During his 45-year pharmaceutical career, he has embraced the attitude he says was instilled in him while studying in Australia: to be inventive and believe nothing is impossible. Thomas has developed more than 200 commercial products throughout his career, mostly for human and animal health, with his major achievement being the development of sublingual (under the tongue) delivery of treatments for people with chronic diseases like diabetes or hepatitis B and C, previously administered via injection. A life-changing moment came in 2004 when he sold his first company to spend time with his terminally ill father. They discussed natural ways of boosting the immune system which led Thomas to think more about the role of immunotherapy in cancer treatment, a goal that ultimately led him to develop sublingual delivery immunotherapy for cancer patients.

Born in Hong Kong to an eminent pharmaceutical family, Thomas Ko immigrated to study Pharmaceutical Science. Thomas became the first male pharmacist to be appointed to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital before Vitapharm Pharmaceutical Pty. Ltd. Specialising in human and veterinary pharmaceutical products, the company won the Australian Business Award in 2002. That same year the company was publicly listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. In 2008, Thomas was appointed Sports Medicine and Nutrition consultant to the Chinese Ministry of Sports during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He and his products played a major role in assisting 125 Chinese mountaineers to relay the Olympic torch to the peak of Mount Everest. In 2012, Thomas established BioLingus Technology Development (Hong Kong) P.L., and in 2015, became the founder and a major shareholder in BioLingus GMBH (Switzerland). The company was awarded the Most Innovative Biotech Company 2016 award from European CEO Magazine for its non-invasive sublingual drug delivery technology, and was presented the award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2017.


Dr Rossa Chiu is a professor in the department of chemical pathology and Associate Dean for Development at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Determined to tackle the cancer epidemic, she and her colleagues have been developing blood tests with the goal to identify cancers early, thereby reducing cancer-related deaths. Rossa emphasises the importance of focusing on better diagnostics. At any one time, among every 1,000 individuals, there are 2 persons with known cancer, and only 50% of cancer patients survive beyond 10 years. In her work, Rossa develops DNA tests to solve diagnostic challenges. Her ground-breaking research has previously developed non-invasive tests to identify fetal diseases by analysing small amounts of baby’s DNA in mother’s blood samples. Since 2011, this has led to worldwide changes in prenatal testing practices.

Dr Rossa Chiu was named among the ‘Top 20 Translational Researchers of 2018’ by the world-renowned scientific journal Nature Biotechnology. Rossa has won numerous international awards for her research and holds over 485 patents. She has published over 175 peer-reviewed research articles and 15 books or chapters; and has delivered 160 invited presentations around the world. To translate her research findings into clinical tests, Rossa has founded Xcelom, DRA, Cirina and Take2. She served as president of the Hong Kong Society of Clinical Chemistry, was on the American Association for Clinical Chemistry’s awards committee, is on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis and is an Associate editor of Clinical Chemistry and Human Genetics and Genomics Advances. She is a member of American Association of Clinical Chemistry Hall of Fame, since winning the 2013 Award for Outstanding Scientific Contributions for a Young Investigator.

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