The Genome Architecture and Design (GAD) domain encompasses two distinct yet complementary activities: Reading (Architecture) and Writing (Design) DNA. Both of these activities have grown exponentially in the past several decades with continuing advances in technology. This domain is unique in that it steps outside the traditional domain of using genomics to understand life and health; the GAD theme also captures our ability to create in genomics. Therefore, the GAD domain projects onto a broad array of intellectual endeavours as well as industries, such as infection outbreaks, synthetic biology, genome engineering, DNA storage, agro-biotechnology, and biodiversity studies.
GIS has many strengths that are unified by the GAD domain. These include multi-disciplinary expertise (genetics, computer science, biology and medicine), best-in-class infrastructure for molecular bacteriology research and infectious disease monitoring in Southeast Asia, expertise in genome engineering and gene therapy, and national endowments and priorities in Singapore (e.g. biodiversity hotspot, population-diversity, smart nation push, and importance of food security):
- Microbial Applications: GIS is nationally and internationally recognised for its contributions to research in infectious diseases (e.g. SARS, Dengue, Zika, and GBS) which can naturally be built upon as we envisage national monitoring, port-to-plate food safety, and high-density food production. As an institute with access to the largest genomic datasets in Singapore and with sophisticated analytical capabilities, the GIS is ideally placed to integrate data from diverse surveillance sources (healthcare, water monitoring, food safety, and biodefense) into unified interfaces, secure querying and research applications.
- Asian Diversity: While human genetics research has primarily focused on reference-based analysis, the SG10K project and GIS’ strengths in studying Asian genetic diversity serve as an ideal launching pad to establish Asian reference genomes by harnessing de novo human genome assembly capabilities. GIS has significant experience and expertise in genome assembly with a wide range of applications, particularly in plant genomics, food and biodiversity research as these areas are poised to grow rapidly in Singapore and beyond.
- DNA Sensors: As DNA sequencing transitions to an era of miniaturised, real-time, and ubiquitous systems, we envisage that its importance as a "biological sensor" will be integral to Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. Our work on nanopore sequencing and its application to hospital monitoring, food safety, and authenticity are being expanded through collaborations with universities, public sector agencies and with industry. These efforts also link the GIS to broader national goals beyond healthcare and enable collaborations with leaders in the growing genome analytics space.
Nucleic Acid Therapeutics: GIS has established resources and foundational capabilities in the form of an IAF-PP funded Molecular Therapeutics Programme (MTP) and an AME Programmatic funded Automating Macromolecular Manipulation for Manufacturing (AMMM) Programme. Within two years, the MTP has progressed from identification of lead indications to therapeutic evaluation in non-human primates (NHP). The Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) gene therapy vector core (VectorCore@GIS), spun off from excess capacity at the MTP, has gained significant traction with over 20 service and collaborative requests in its first year. We continue to develop foundational technologies in CRISPR-Cas nucleic acid editing. The AMMM has also recently begun to establish foundational IP in Singapore for nucleic acid engineering. As the coordinated effort of MTP, VectorCore@GIS, AMMM, and new strategic efforts in GIS expand its resourcing and reach, GIS is well poised to develop a national NAT platform. The GIS NAT strategy will expand capacity for selected disease targets (particularly cancers, infectious diseases, and severe rare diseases) through partnering clinicians associated with the hospitals and medical schools, disease societies, A*STAR institutes, and other research institutions in Singapore.
Asian Skin Microbiome