Developing A New Generation Of Regenerative Medicine

Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) exosomes have shown tremendous potential in treating various diseases.


Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) exosomes have shown tremendous potential in treating various diseases.

The Highly Cited Researcher and a Principal Scientist at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) is also the CEO of two spin-offs focusing on liposomes for skincare and exosomes for regenerative medicine.

These days, he juggles work in the laboratory and meetings with his companies' regulators, investors and customers.

“My work is now much more varied and interactive compared with what I did ten years ago,” he shares.

His fascination with MSC exosomes started over a decade ago during an undergraduate industrial attachment programme at A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS).

Under the guidance of Senior Principal Scientist at IMCB, Dr Lim Sai Kiang, his mentor and at A*STAR, he became part of an A*STAR team that was the first in the world to discover MSC exosomes.

MSC exosomes are tiny vesicles that contain bioactive material such as protein, lipids and nucleic acid. They play a key role in cell-to-cell communication and influencing how cells behave. Scientists are studying how MSC exosomes trigger tissue repair, immune responses and more.

ASTAR_Paracrine effects of mesenchymal stem cellsImage: Paracrine effects of mesenchymal stem cells

Dr Lai and his team at IMCB are working on Phase 2 of the clinical trial for an exosome-based topical product to treat psoriasis. A typical clinical trial will take at least five years to complete in three phases.

Besides psoriasis, MSC exosomes can potentially treat conditions such as osteoarthritis, heart disease, liver and lung diseases.

Pharmaceutical companies use liposomes for drug delivery, while skincare companies use them in products such as facial moisturiser and body lotion. One of his spin-offs focuses on developing and commercialising best-in-class liposome-based skincare products that target people with sensitive skin, ageing skin and conditions like psoriasis.

This proprietary technology developed by A*STAR’s scientists is manufactured in Singapore and distributed to local and international markets.

“Our products are backed by science. A happy customer, after using the products, reaffirms my belief that our research has done something good for humankind,” he shares.

Dr Lai’s curiosity about the human body led him to a career in science, and he is driven by passion and a keen desire to make an impact on human health.

If you’re thinking about a research career, make no mistake that curiosity is, first and foremost, a trait you should have. Then, ask yourself if you have the passion to keep discovering and translating what you have learnt into something that helps others.