Japan honours Nobel laureate based in S'pore

Dr Sydney Brenner yesterday receiving the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun from Japanese Ambassador to Singapore Kenji Shinoda, for his contributions in developing education and research in the field of science and technology in Japan.
Dr Sydney Brenner yesterday receiving the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun from Japanese Ambassador to Singapore Kenji Shinoda, for his contributions in developing education and research in the field of science and technology in Japan.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Even at 90, Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner has not stopped doing research. Currently based in Singapore, the molecular biology pioneer said he is working on a paper about DNA evolution.

"There are still a lot of things that we don't know, so we need to keep searching for new ideas," he said. He added that he is analysing genomes on a computer because he cannot walk around a lab like he used to.

Dr Brenner was yesterday honoured by Japan for his contributions in developing education and research in the field of science and technology in the country.

At a ceremony at Shangri-La Hotel here, he received the Japanese government's Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun award. It is the second-highest accolade Japan gives to foreigners. It was presented to Dr Brenner by the Japanese Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Kenji Shinoda, on behalf of Emperor Akihito.

Dr Brenner gave a passionate speech about the institutions he had helped set up: "It can take 10 years to build an organisation, but it takes only a couple of weeks to destroy it. I hope that everything I have done in various countries, there will be people who remember what it was like before the institutions were built and continue these efforts."

"We must have new people, new ideas," he added.

Dr Brenner first visited Singapore in 1983 to advise the Government on what it would take for the Republic to create a biotechnology industry.

He has been associated with the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology - Singapore's first biomedical research institute - since its inception in 1985, and has seen it grow into a world-class institution.

In 2000, he joined the second phase of building scientific research and development in Singapore at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), and continues in this work today.

For his contributions, Dr Brenner received the Distinguished Friends of Singapore award in 2000 and, in 2003, was appointed an honorary citizen of Singapore.

He is currently scientific adviser to the chairman of A*Star and head of its Molecular Engineering Laboratory.

When asked about the direction Singapore's research was heading towards, Dr Brenner said: "It's in the right direction, but we need more innovation, more ideas."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2017, with the headline 'Japan honours Nobel laureate based in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe