Highly Cited Researchers 2021 – 13 A*STAR scientists inspire the world

Faced with global issues that include a worldwide pandemic and climate change challenges, scientists and researchers are the vanguards of this struggle, achieving the necessary innovation and technological advancement to meet these issues head-on.

Data analytics firm Clarivate's annual list of Highly Cited Researchers identifies the “who’s who” of influential researchers who have published multiple highly cited papers in the last decade, ranked in the top 1 per cent by citations for their chosen field or fields and year in the Web of Science citation index. Last year’s highly anticipated annual list comprises 6,600 researchers from more than 70 countries and regions across the globe.

Thirteen of A*STAR’s innovators have been recognised among the world’s most highly cited researchers in 2021. Said Prof Andy Hor, Deputy Chief Executive (Research) at A*STAR, “Citations is an indication of the relevance and influence of the published works. We are delighted for these research scientists and trust that this recognition would give them and other A*STAR researchers the confidence to translate these scientific citations to tangible outcomes.”

Paving The Way For A Cleaner, Healthier Planet

Highly Cited Researchers 2021 Dr Zhang Lili

Dr Zhang Lili, Senior Scientist at the Institute of Sustainability for Chemicals, Energy and Environment (ISCE2), A*STAR is passionate about building a cleaner and healthier planet. This has fueled her research interest on decarbonisation processes, clean fuels production, energy and materials recovery from waste.

Her partnerships with local SMEs have also produced technologies that convert solid wastes to high-value functional carbons and hydrogen gas, “turning one man’s trash into another’s treasure”, said Dr Zhang. “Having worked in fields that include clean and sustainable energy storage and conversion, and waste recycling, we constantly push the boundaries of what we can do to protect our planet's environment.”

The research of Prof Zhang Yong-Wei, Principal Scientist and Deputy Executive Director (Research) at the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), A*STAR, aims to unveil new insights and understanding across fields with the use of modelling and simulation tools to investigate the properties of materials.

“It has been a fascinating journey to discover the link between the structures and properties of materials, and then translate these insights into applications in material design, manufacturing, and engineering to raise productivity and introduce cost savings,” said Prof Zhang.

Highly Cited Researchers 2021 Prof Zhang Yong-Wei

New Ways To Treat Diseases

Intrigued by immunology research, Dr Subhra K. Biswas’ research focuses on cells called monocytes and macrophages. These cells not only form the first line of defense of our immune system, but also help in tissue repair and other key physiological activities.

Any defects in these cells can contribute to diseases such as uncontrolled infection, cancer or obesity and diabetes. As a Principal Investigator at the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), A*STAR, Dr Biswas’ work identifies the mechanisms that drive these defects to find ways to 're-program’ these cells and check disease progression.

Highly Cited Researchers 2021 Dr Subhra K Biswas

“Importantly, studying these immune cells and their associated markers and mechanisms in disease can help to screen the right patients who are amenable to disruptive immunotherapy-based treatments. This benefits the community and economy by saving healthcare costs and attracting pharmaceutical companies’ investment.”

Highly Cited Researchers 2021 Dr Lim Sai Kianh

The lab of Dr Lim Sai Kiang, Research Director at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) was the first to discover Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) exosomes more than 10 years ago. MSC exosomes are small vesicles secreted by MSC or adult stem cells.

“We have shown that MSC exosomes mediate the therapeutic activity of the stem cells and provide a safer alternative to living stem cells in the treatment of many difficult to treat degenerative and inflammatory diseases. Over the last decade, we have studied and developed a deep understanding of MSC exosome biology, their applications, and manufacture to prepare the ground for clinical applications,” said Dr Lim.

Many clinical trials to test MSC exosomes are scheduled to start in the coming year including one in Singapore. One recent exciting discovery was the efficacy of MSC exosomes in possibly treating patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.

A*STAR continues to be committed to build and grow areas of excellence in strategic fields, said Prof Hor.

“We will continue to advance quality science with impact. Citations is part of the broader yardstick to ensure that we are responsive to emerging challenges in science and technology. We look forward to more discoveries, inventions and innovations that provide new solutions to some of the biggest problems facing humankind today, examples are energy sustainability, food resilience, vaccines for emerging pathogens, antibiotic resistance and so forth,” said Prof Hor.

The full list of 13 highly cited researchers is available on A*STAR’s website.