Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner, who helped place Singapore on biotech world stage, honoured by Japan

SINGAPORE - Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner is known for helping to place Singapore's biotechnology sector on the world stage.

On Monday (Aug 21), the 90-year-old Briton was honoured for doing the same for Japan.

At a ceremony at Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, Dr Brenner 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 was being honoured for his contributions in developing education and research in the field of science and technology in Japan.

The molecular biology pioneer, who won the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine in 2002, established the roundworm C. elegans as a model for studying developmental biology.

This is now used as a standard research model by biologists worldwide.

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 to the development of the life sciences in Singapore, Dr Brenner received the Distinguished Friends of Singapore 2000 award, 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.

Dr Brenner was also the president of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Promotion Corporation from 2005 to 2011.

Distinguished Singaporeans who have also received decorations from the Japanese government include Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee received the highest honour given to foreigners - the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers.