Biotransformation Innovation Platform
Rising consumer sophistication has led to a demand for ‘clean label’ and ‘natural’ ingredients and actives. Microbial fermentation is being used increasingly by industry to impart flavours to food without additives. However, sustainable sourcing of ingredients for flavours, fragrances and personal care can be challenging due to low yields from natural sources, seasonal variation in supply (leading to price volatility) and biodiversity protection (Convention on Biological Diversity).
A*STAR’s BioTranformation Innovation Platform (BioTrans) is an integrated platform spanning discovery, pathway and fermentation expertise to facilitate scale-up and downstream aspects for production of high value products. The focus of the platform is to generate new tools and readily scalable technologies to provide sustainable solutions for high value manufacturing. The BioTrans platform leverages A*STAR’s Natural Product Library which comprises over 300,000 extracts derived from microbial strains, fungi and plant specimens, collected from more than 100 countries. A*STAR’s Natural Product Library is a unique resource to explore natural biodiversity for the discovery of new products, pathways and strains, which when coupled to in-house advanced metabolic engineering and natural strain evolution strategies, offers exceptional opportunities to develop novel products relevant to the personal care, flavours and fragrance industry.
21st Century Testing
Tens of thousands of chemicals are currently in use, and many are essential to modern life. For example, preservatives protect food from harmful microbial contamination; sunscreen filters protect against skin cancer; surfactants in soaps, shower gels, shampoos and washing detergents help to remove dirt and grease. For almost a century, chemical safety testing has been performed mainly on laboratory animals. There is growing scientific agreement that animal testing, in addition to being costly and time consuming, is not necessarily a good predictor of human toxicity.
A*STAR’s 21st century testing platform aims to develop innovative methods to assess and predict the safety and functionality of chemicals and their effects on human health more accurately and efficiently without relying on animal testing. With expertise in stem cell biology, tissue engineering, microfluidics and computational modelling, ASTAR could harness the capabilities across biomedical and engineering sciences to contribute to new approaches to chemical safety prediction.
A*STAR has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate three projects focusing on kidney, liver and developmental toxicity. These projects build on A*STAR’s proprietary technologies from our Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Bioinformatics Institute (BII), and Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) – improved liver models for the screening of chemicals, unique high-throughput imaging platform for predicting kidney toxicity and expertise to develop generation of human foetal macrophages from induced pluripotent stem cells. The collaboration will build on EPA’s ToxCast program which has generated high-throughput screening data on over 1,800 chemicals.
Skin Research Institute of Singapore
The Skin Research Institute of Singapore (SRIS) is a collaboration between A*STAR, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National Skin Centre (NSC). SRIS takes an inter-disciplinary approach to skin research and innovation, tapping on A*STAR’s strengths in skin biology, NSC’s dermatology expertise and NTU’s capabilities in bioengineering, nanotechnology and materials science.
Key research areas include skin barrier function, skin ageing, pigmentary disorders, allergy and inflammation, wound healing, and hair conditions. SRIS aims to build up well-characterised, deeply-phenotyped cohorts and databases of healthy volunteers or patients of different ethnicities with different skin diseases and conditions.
The Singapore Centre for Nutriitonal Sciences, Metabolic Diseases and Human Development (SiNMeD) is a collaboration between A*STAR and NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Research on the nutritional needs of Asians is lacking and this will be a special focus of the programme. SiNMeD focuses on fundamental, clinical and translational research to understand the role of nutrition and early development in the onset and progression of obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes.
Key research programmes are in early development focusing on mother and infant nutrition, growth and developmental epigenetics; nutritional sciences with the aim to develop strategies for optimal nutrition; and metabolic diseases through studying obesity and insulin resistance in Asians.