Investment in science and innovation, growing talent pool vital to S’pore’s economic growth: Gan Kim Yong

Duke-NUS, GenScript and A*Star's DxD Hub co-developed and manufactured cPass, a test kit used to detect antibodies that defend cells from viruses in coronavirus patients.
Duke-NUS, GenScript and A*Star's DxD Hub co-developed and manufactured cPass, a test kit used to detect antibodies that defend cells from viruses in coronavirus patients.PHOTO: DUKE-NUS MEDICAL SCHOOL

SINGAPORE - Continued investment in science and innovation, as well as growing a strong pool of talented scientists, will enable the country's next stage of economic growth beyond Covid-19, said Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong on Wednesday (Aug 4).

"To develop a globally competitive R&D talent pool, we must continue to build and nurture an agile local talent base, support research work on challenging problems of global importance, and remain open to international talent and ideas," said Mr Gan.

He added: "Science, technology and innovation will continue to be critical in ensuring Singapore's resilience and economic transformation, especially as we emerge from Covid-19."

Mr Gan was speaking at the annual scholarship award ceremony by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), which was held online.

This year marks the scholarship's 20th anniversary, with 69 aspiring scientists receiving scholarships and fellowships. Since 2001, the scholarship programme has developed more than 1,700 PhD holders and postdoctoral talent.

A*Star is also commemorating its 30th anniversary, and Mr Gan noted that the agency is currently focusing on developing a talent pool that can bolster the country's food security through innovations in alternative foods.

He also highlighted the innovation and research work of A*Star scientists in combating the pandemic.

"Our strong capabilities in biomedical sciences and engineering enabled the speedy development of innovative solutions to support our fight against Covid-19."

One innovation is cPass, a test kit used to detect antibodies that defend cells from viruses in coronavirus patients.

cPass was the first Covid-19 antibody test kit to get the United States Food and Drug Administration's approval.

A*Star's bioinformatics team also helped to curate and analyse the Sars-CoV-2 genome sequences shared on global data-sharing platform Gisaid.

"The platform has been recognised as a game changer in the fight against the pandemic, serving as the primary source of Covid-19 genomic data that has contributed to the rapid development of diagnostic kits and vaccines," said Mr Gan.

In view of the scholarship's 20th year, Mr Gan also acknowledged a few veteran scholars who have become leaders in their field.

One of them is ophthalmologist Su Xinyi, who developed a biodegradable thermogel that can replace the natural fluid in patients' eyeballs after eye surgery.

Another veteran scholar is Dr Gurpreet Singh, founder of an A*Star spin-off medical device company that has developed a wearable device to monitor the vitals of patients - including Covid-19 patients - using AI analytics. The device enables healthcare workers to monitor patients' health remotely.

Mr Gan added that the scholarships will nurture the next generation of scientists "who will contribute to fields such as artificial intelligence and urban and green technology, which have highly relevant applications for industries of the future".