Biomanufacturing is a key sector that contributes to Singapore’s economy. To maintain Singapore’s competitiveness, the key is to constantly develop innovation in bioprocessing technologies. The Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) in A*STAR has core expertise in bioprocess science and engineering. Cornerstone programmes within BTI include generation of novel cell lines and biomolecules; optimisation of therapeutics production in prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems; expansion and characterisation of stem cells; product recovery, purification and analysis; and "–omics" technologies. These new technologies will accelerate process development to meet the growing demand of biologics therapeutics and new modalities, such as cell therapy. The outcomes will play a pivotal role in supporting biopharmaceutical companies to anchor in Singapore.
MOLECULAR & CELL BIOLOGY
The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) was established in 1987 at NUS as Singapore’s first foray into biomedical research, before becoming an A*STAR research institute sited at the Biopolis in 2004. Its mission is to develop and foster a vibrant research culture for cutting-edge molecular and cell biology for elucidating the mechanisms of action of human diseases. It had also been training high-quality postgraduate students for the flourishing biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in Singapore.
The research activities at IMCB are organised into two main divisions: the Discovery Research Division which handles core research in various fields of biomedical science; and the Infrastructure, Technology and Translation Division (ITTD) which oversees development of translational platforms and supporting technologies. IMCB has numerous collaborations with industrial, translational clinical and academic partners both in Singapore and worldwide.
DRUGS/BIOLOGICS DISCOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT
Singapore’s drug discovery and development community is arguably one of the most competent, experienced and mature in Asia. The Pharmaceuticals/Biologics Discovery and Development efforts at A*STAR are spearheaded by the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC), which translates early-stage scientific discoveries into drug candidates, diagnostics and innovative research tools, as well as the Drug Discovery & Development (D3) platform, which facilitates preclinical development and early clinical trials up to proof-of-concept in man. One of the breakthroughs of this formidable setup is the development of a small-molecule inhibitor (ETC-159), together with the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, which targets the Wnt-Porcupine pathway in breast cancer. The molecule successfully entered clinical trials in May 2015.
Although the life sciences are not truly a theoretical discipline, there are increasingly important research areas such as studies of sequences, expression profiles, 3D structures and bioimages where the application of quantitative mathematical concepts has become instrumental. The discovery and progress of biological theory, prediction of the function of genes and their interactions in pathways and networks rely heavily on computational methods. The Bioinformatics Institute (BII) is the hub for such activities in A*STAR. In addition, recognising that different fields of research requires specific bioinformatics solutions, bioinformatics groups also reside within the Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI), Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), to cater for each institute’s specific requirements.
Fast becoming a clearly recognisable voice in the international field of immunology, the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) was launched in 2008 to advance human immunology research and participate in international efforts to combat major health problems. Researchers at SIgN investigate immunity during infections and inflammatory conditions using both mouse models and human tissues. With strengths in oncology, infectious disease, inflammation as well as immunology technology development, SIgN thrives on strong synergies and partnerships both among its groups as well as with local and international research, clinical and industry collaborators.
The Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) provides state-of-the-art genomic infrastructure for Singapore. It houses a comprehensive suite of genomic technology platforms to support various research projects individually and can be put together to provide end-to-end solutions for experimental needs. These platforms include: Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), Genotyping, Single-cell Omics and High Throughput Phenomics (CHIP-GIS). This has enabled GIS to support genomic research both internally and externally, both in Singapore and worldwide. For instance, the GIS-Fluidigm Single-Cell Omics Centre (SCOC), opened in 2012, is a laboratory located within the Institute that is dedicated to accelerate the understanding of how individual cells work, and how diagnosis and treatment might be enhanced through insights derived from single cell analytics.