A*Star, NTU shine in cancer and semiconductor research

NTU (left) churned out 1,624 scientific papers on semiconductors from 2005 to last year, putting it in eighth place worldwide, according to the Thomson Reuters study. A*Star was ranked fifth in Asia for its cancer treatment innovations, with 74 paten
NTU (above) churned out 1,624 scientific papers on semiconductors from 2005 to last year, putting it in eighth place worldwide, according to the Thomson Reuters study. A*Star was ranked fifth in Asia for its cancer treatment innovations, with 74 patents filed from 2011 to last year.ST FILE PHOTO

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) have once again been ranked among the best in semiconductor and cancer research, respectively.

According to the latest study by media and information firm Thomson Reuters released on Wednesday, NTU was ranked among the world's most prolific scientific research institutions in semiconductors.

The university churned out 1,624 scientific papers from 2005 to last year in that category, putting it in eighth place, after other top performers such as the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Tokyo.

A*Star, on the other hand, was ranked fifth in Asia for its cancer treatment innovations. From 2011 to last year, it filed 74 patents, after the likes of Samsung and Seoul National University.

Among the patents filed were those for drug candidate ETC-159, by the agency and Duke-NUS Medical School. If clinical trials are successful, ETC-159 could emerge as Singapore's first cancer blockbuster - used to target a number of cancers, such as ovarian cancer.

Mr Philip Lim, chief executive of Exploit Technologies, A*Star's commercialisation arm, said the ranking reflects A*Star's capabilities and expertise in research on cancer, which is the top cause of mortality in Singapore.

Mr Bob Stembridge, senior patents analyst at Thomson Reuters business unit Intellectual Property & Science, said: "Singapore is experiencing growing levels of patenting, at around 8,000 inventions a year, to the extent that it features again in the Asia ranking for cancer treatment innovations."

The annual Thomson Reuters State of Innovation study looks at intellectual property data, including patent applications and scientific publications, as an indicator of innovation across 12 areas, including medical devices and biotechnology.

Both NTU and A*Star were also ranked in the top 10 in the same categories last year.

Professor Yoon Soon Fatt, chair of NTU's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said the rankings show that NTU remains highly competitive in semiconductor research. He said his team is looking at developing the next generation of semiconductor materials that can work more efficiently.

For a start, the team has developed a process in which solar cells can be transferred onto a flexible medium similar to a "sticky tape". It can then be stuck on the surfaces of mobile devices so they can be charged using solar energy, without the need to be plugged into sockets.

The university is looking to commercialise the technology.

"At the end of the day, we want to make our technology commercially scalable... Otherwise, it will remain just a laboratory achievement," said Prof Yoon.

Last year, the university filed 453 new patents worldwide, compared with 174 in 2010, said Dr Lim Jui, chief executive of NTU's commercialisation arm, NTUitive. There were also 72 NTU technologies licensed to industry partners, and 48 spin-off firms were launched.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'A*Star, NTU shine in cancer and semiconductor research'. Print Edition | Subscribe