The science and technology of keeping Singapore safe

Senior lab analyst Ng Li Teng working at the HTX CBRNE Lab a Woodlands Checkpoint, on Nov 14, 2019.
Senior lab analyst Ng Li Teng working at the HTX CBRNE Lab a Woodlands Checkpoint, on Nov 14, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Senior forensic scientist Simon Lim from HTX with genetic analysers that he and his team use to sequence DNA from samples handed over by the police or other Home Team officers. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Senior forensic scientist Simon Lim from HTX with genetic analysers that he and his team use to sequence DNA from samples handed over by the police or other Home Team officers. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

With experts in fields as diverse as forensics, biometrics and robotics, the new Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) has placed itself firmly in the front line when it comes to keeping the nation safe. Health and science editor Chang Ai-Lien gets an exclusive look at the agency's high-tech methods of solving crime, saving lives and safeguarding borders.

One nanogram is a billionth of a gram.

Yet these days, a nanogram of DNA - the amount found in roughly 170 cells - is all it takes for accurate genetic sequencing, says senior forensic scientist Simon Lim. This is a minuscule amount, considering that people shed skin cells at the rate of 500 million cells every day.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2019, with the headline 'The science and technology of keeping S'pore safe'. Print Edition | Subscribe