Thursday, August 17, 2006

Singapore's Biopolis

The centerpiece of Singapore’s biotechnology effort is the Biopolis, a seven-building biomedical hive that opened in late 2003 at a cost of 500 million Singapore dollars. It is outfitted with the latest high-tech equipment and features a bar, a day care center and an underground facility made to house a quarter-million laboratory mice.

Authorities are now building a stem cell bank at Biopolis, which will be able to count on some of the world’s most liberal laws on human embryonic cell usage.

Read this NYTimes story about how Singapore is positioning itself to become the new centre of the Biotech Universe. Quite impressive.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Hi Abi,

    Biopolis guys are doing really well. They have got a few big shots including Sydney Brenner into their fold. Their pay package is very attractive too.

  2. Anonymous said...

    What Singapore doing these days is simply copying Americans. Recently I talked to couple of faculties there and they told me that the Govt fund are alloted only for fancy research. Buzz words like Nano, Bio...atracts money. They are also bit aggressive in trating the researchers/collaborators. See this recent story published in Nature.

    Nature 442, 493(3 August 2006) | doi:10.1038/442493a; Published online 2
    August 2006
    Singapore pulls plug on US collaboration

    Ichiko Fuyuno

    Research ties with Johns Hopkins University cut.

    The Singaporean government is known for its generosity in pumping money
    into international research projects. But it can apparently be ruthless if these projects do not please it. The city-state is shutting down a medical research arm of Johns Hopkins University in Singapore, claiming it has not delivered as planned.

    The decision has sent shock waves through other universities and
    research institutes, some of which are in the initial stages of
    collaborating with Singapore.

    On 20 June, the 60 faculty members and staff of the Division of
    Biomedical Sciences, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Singapore, were given
    official notice that as of 1June 2006, the facility was being wound
    down. The process will take 12 months, with researchers and staff
    receiving salaries until the facility closes on 31 May 2007.

    "We thought it unwise to continue putting money into something that is not working," says Andre Wan, director of the Biomedical Research
    Council at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). He claims that Johns Hopkins failed to meet key requirements in its contract.

    The split is the first major failure of Singapore's recent push into biomedical research, which includes building the ambitious Biopolis research centre.

    Singapore and Johns Hopkins Medicine first got together in 1998, to set up Johns Hopkins Singapore as the university's base for medical research, education and clinical studies in southeast Asia. In 2003, the two parties restructured the organization, making it the first full
    division of Johns Hopkins Medicine outside its US home in Baltimore,
    Maryland.Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this.

    Singapore has the funds for grand research ventures such as Biopolis,
    but it demands results.

    Under the five-year contract begun in February 2004, A*STAR agreed to
    provide S$75 million (US$47.5 million) to cover salaries, facilities and research equipment. For its part, according to A*STAR, Johns Hopkins aimed to build a centre of immunology, experimental therapeutics and cancer research, to establish a PhD programme and to bring senior
    researchers with international reputations to Singapore.

    Wan alleges that Johns Hopkins has failed to meet 8 out of 13 key
    performance indicators in the past two years. For example, it agreed to
    hire at least 12 full-time senior researchers with residence in
    Singapore by the end of the second year. So far, Wan says it has hired
    seven, only one of whom fulfils all the requirements.

    Gary Stephenson, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins Medicine, declined to
    comment, saying the university plans to issue a joint statement with
    A*STAR soon. But on 22 July, a Singaporean newspaper reported a Johns
    Hopkins official as alleging that Singapore failed to meet its financial
    and educational obligations under the agreement; A*STAR denies those claims.

    The break-up has reminded other universities not to take their
    collaborative projects with Singapore for granted. For instance, in 2005 Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, established a graduate medical school with the National University of Singapore, as part of a seven-year contract. "The major lesson I'm taking from this is to seek great clarity of how performance in our exciting new venture will be defined," says Sanders Williams, founding
    dean of the new school.

  3. Anonymous said...

    They are a plain capitalistic country. They don't care about the noble intention of curing world's diseases. They will only fund if it has a potential to make big bucks later. They have lost their electronics industry and they have realized that Biopolis is a good investment to make up for the loss and feel secured about the future. How else would one can explain their conservative policies based on ethics when it comes to organ transplant like Kidney but liberal policies when it comes to stem cells. They are purely acting on capitalistic grounds without any noble intentions of saving the world through research. However, with nutheads like Bush in power, this is the only way for scientists from America to get funded for their research.