A strategic alliance between Thermo Fisher Scientific and NUS reveals three projects receiving their multi-year funds

Singapore 13 April, 2015 - Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., the world leader in serving science, and the National University of Singapore (NUS) on 13 April announced three research projects, which are supported under their strategic alliance. Each project could receive a grant of up to S$300,000 per year.

Singapore 13 April, 2015 - Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., the world leader in serving science, and the National University of Singapore (NUS) on 13 April announced three research projects, which are supported under their strategic alliance. Each project could receive a grant of up to S$300,000 per year.

The five-year strategic alliance formed by the two parties in April 2014 has committed to sponsor both multi-year and short-term research grants to accelerate life sciences, as well as to support activities that encourage knowledge exchange among NUS researchers and Thermo Fisher Scientific’s scientists. This alliance is facilitated by the NUS Industry Liaison Office, which is part of NUS Enterprise.

The call for proposals for the multi-year grants attracted over 50 applications from various labs and investigators across NUS. The selected research projects were chosen based on the application of the research to the request for proposal topics generated from Thermo Fisher Scientific and NUS, including potential for future commercial viability. These projects cover three areas of research: Synthetic Biology, Analytical Applications and Stem Cell Biology.

1) Synthetic Biology - Dr Matthew Chang (Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, and Program Leader, NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation) will seek to make molecular improvements in a mammalian cell line that is used for the manufacturing of proteins (for pharmaceutical applications).

2) Analytical Applications - Dr Sam F.Y. Li (Professor, Department of Chemistry, NUS Faculty of Science) will seek to develop new analytical applications for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Capillary Electrophoresis platform.

3) Stem Cell Biology - Dr Michael Raghunath (Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, NUS Faculty of Engineering; Department of Biochemistry, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine; and Principal Investigator of the NUS Tissue Engineering Programme, NUS Life Sciences Institute) will seek to develop novel methods for the proliferation of human stem cells.

Please refer to the Annex for more information on the projects and the lead investigators.

“The selected projects were submitted from different faculties in NUS, namely Engineering, Medicine and Science. This demonstrates that NUS has the capabilities to collaborate with Thermo Fisher Scientific, across different disciplines, and to serve as an engine to promote life science research in the region. NUS will continue to forge strong collaborations with industry, to translate our research into impactful innovations for the benefit of society,” said Ms Irene Cheong, Director, NUS Industry Liaison Office.

“We were delighted to receive the creative proposals from the NUS through our grant selection process” said Alan Sachs, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Life Sciences Solutions for Thermo Fisher Scientific. “We are looking forward to the new discoveries that our joint efforts will enable. Our alliance with NUS will also help to accelerate innovation from Singapore, which will benefit the people of the Asia Pacific and the world.”

Moving forward, the Thermo Fisher Scientific-NUS strategic alliance is now in the process of selecting projects for the Discovery Innovation Grants (DIGs). The DIGs will support investigation of new areas or new applications of existing technologies that come under the spotlight such as: Next Generation Sequencing, Genetic Analysis, Molecular Diagnostics, Food Safety and Animal Health, Life Sciences and Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry, Rare Cells & Single Cells and Synthetic Biology. The grant period will be for one-year and up to S$100,000 for each project. The projects will be selected in May.

Media Contact Information:
Atsuko Igawa
Communications
Life Sciences Solutions Thermo Fisher Scientific
Mobile: +81-3-6832-9446
Email: [email protected]

Chan Yiu Lin
Greener Grass Communications (For NUS Enterprise)
Mobile: +65 9-765 5897
Email: [email protected]g

About Thermo Fisher Scientific
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. is the world leader in serving science, with revenues of $17 billion and 50,000 employees in 50 countries. Our mission is to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. We help our customers accelerate life sciences research, solve complex analytical challenges, improve patient diagnostics and increase laboratory productivity. Through our premier brands – Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Fisher Scientific and Unity Lab Services – we offer an unmatched combination of innovative technologies, purchasing convenience and comprehensive support.

For more information, please visit www.thermofisher.com.
About National University of Singapore (NUS)
A leading global university centred in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise.

NUS has 16 faculties and schools across three campuses. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.

NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 26 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore’s fifth RCE. NUS shares a close affiliation with 16 national-level research institutes and centres. Research activities are strategic and robust, and NUS is well-known for its research strengths in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences and natural sciences. It also strives to create a supportive and innovative environment to promote creative enterprise within its community.

This year, NUS celebrates its 110th year of founding together with Singapore’s 50th year of independence. As the island’s first higher education institution established by the local community, NUS prides itself in nurturing generations of leaders and luminaries in Singapore and Asia.

For more information on NUS, please visit www.nus.edu.sg. Details on NUS’ 110th Anniversary celebrations are available at nus110.sg.

NUS Enterprise
NUS Enterprise is a University-level cluster that provides an enterprise dimension to NUS teaching and research involving the University’s students, staff and alumni. The functions of the Enterprise Cluster complement the academic cluster of the University to nurture talents with an entrepreneurial and global mind-set. NUS Enterprise promotes the spirit of innovation and enterprise through Experiential Education, Industry Engagement & Partnerships and Entrepreneurship Support.
http://enterprise.nus.edu.sg/

Annex - Projects Awarded Grants from the Thermo Fisher Scientific-NUS strategic alliance

Dr Matthew Chang
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
Program Leader, NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation

Project: Improving Manufacturing of Proteins for Bioproduction

Dr Matthew Chang is an expert on biochemical engineering and synthetic biology. He is experienced especially in “modifying” microorganisms to perform programmable functions for engineering and manufacturing applications. In this project, collaborating with Thermo Fisher Scientific‘s Synthetic Biology and Bioproduction R&D teams, Dr Chang seeks to engineer improvements to a mammalian cell line to improve their use for the manufacturing and production of proteins (i.e., bioproduction).

Synthetic biology is an area that is attracting significant attention in recent years. The technology focuses on re-designing biological processes in cells by molecular techniques such as editing genes or constructing new biological systems. In Dr Chang’s sponsored project, he will utilise the synthetic biology technologies to create improved bioproduction cells that will grow faster and have fewer resource requirements for growth. Bioproduction cells are used in the commercial production of proteins. These so-called “biopharmaceuticals” include proteins for use in treatment of diseases, such as the protein insulin for diabetes, as well as antibodies, such as infliximab used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. This research has the potential to benefit the development of new drugs, as well as to develop and deliver less expensive manufacturing processes for current biopharmaceuticals.

Dr Sam F.Y.Li
Professor, Department of Chemistry, NUS Faculty of Science

Project: Developing new applications for the analytical system, Capillary Electrophoresis

Dr Sam F.Y. Li is a highly recognised scientist in the analytical chemistry area focused on developing new methods for environmental and scientific analysis utilising Capillary Electrophoresis (CE) and chromatographic techniques. In this project, Dr Li will work with the Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Genetic Systems and Bioproduction R&D teams to develop new technologies that will improve the capabilities of manufacturing and research related to pharmaceutical, biochemical and clinical analyses.

Capillary Electrophoresis is an analytical technique well known and trusted for its high efficiency. Thermo Fisher Scientific is a major manufacturer of CE instruments, which were the first technology systems utilised for the sequencing of the human genome (i.e., for DNA analysis). Although newer technologies have been developed for DNA sequencing (such as the Ion Torrent System at Thermo Fisher Scientific), CE instruments are also widely used in research labs, clinical facilities and in manufacturing analysis. In the medical field, CE systems are used for DNA typing for forensics, infectious disease and virus detection and also for the identification of genetic disease and mutation of genes. Dr Li’s sponsored work will focus on extending the use of CE technology into the analysis of proteins and protein modifications, opening up new opportunities for this instrument platform in manufacturing applications and research labs.

Dr Michael Raghunath
Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, NUS Faculty of Engineering
Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
Principal Investigator, NUS Tissue Engineering Programme, NUS Life Sciences Institute

Project: Developing new methods for growing human stem cells

Dr Michael Raghunath, an internationally distinguished physician scientist in the field of matrix biology and skin wound repair, has been developing macromolecular crowding as principle in cell biology and Tissue Engineering to build microenvironments for stem cells. In this project, Dr Raghunath will collaborate with Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Cell Biology R&D team to develop novel processes and methods for improving growth of human stem cells utilising his understanding of the biochemistry of cell microenvironments.

Human stem cells have the unique ability to differentiate into various human cell types, such as bone or liver cells, and taking up respective cell functions. Thus, human stem cells provide the potential to treat a wide range of human illnesses and diseases, including cardiac disease and metabolic disorders. Key to realising this potential is the ability to grow them in the laboratory to reach numbers that are sufficient for treatment and to preserve their functionality. However, current cell culture systems do not present an optimal microenvironment for stem cells and thus their growth and functionality deteriorates in vitro. The sponsored research project led by Dr Raghunath is directed at developing better stem cell growth in the laboratory and to replace serum and animal products with synthetic compounds. This shall drive applications for research use, for the manufacturing of stem cells and, eventually, to using these cells in clinical treatments.