Chris Y H Tan (Director 1985-2001)
Chris Y H Tan (Y H Tan). After his BSc-Hons at the University of Singapore, Singapore-born Tan obtained a PhD (Biochemistry @ University of Manitoba) discovering a new broad-spectrum hyaluronidase which is rapidly secreted into dog saliva on sympathetic-nerve stimulation (1969). He discovered interferon (IFN)-gene superinduction at the University of Pittsburgh (1970) making sufficient of the then scarce human β-IFN/mRNA for the first: purification/chemical identification of human interferon, anti-cancer trials (NIH/University of Calgary/Cross Cancer Center 1978-80), and cloning (1980) in the development of an Anti-MS Drug (Betaseron) by Triton Biosciences/Cetus.
He mapped the genes for interferon action and SOD-1 to human chromosome-21 at Yale University (1973-75) demonstrating gene dosage and inter-chromosomal regulation in human cells. The putative IFN-action gene-products were subsequently identified as Mx1, Mx2 anti-viral proteins, IFN-signalling factors, receptors, and inducible cell-adhesion proteins. He co-established the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Interferon Institute (1975) and helped Beijing’s Institute of Virology make β-IFN as China’s first biotech therapeutic.
In 1982 he was invited by the Singapore government to found the Institute of Molecular & Cell Biology (IMCB; 1985). By 2000, IMCB became an international success story inspiring his country and the region to focus on biomedical research; Biopolis was built (2003). Tan nurtured the first and second generation returnees from America and Europe, now international science leaders from Singapore, China and the region. His interest in technology platforms for new drug development continues.