Where did top researchers hired by Singapore go?

American scientist Edison Liu left in 2011 after 10 years of building the Genome Institute of Singapore from scratch.
American scientist Edison Liu left in 2011 after 10 years of building the Genome Institute of Singapore from scratch. PHOTO: ST FILE
Renowned husband-and-wife team Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins left the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in 2011 to return to the United States.
Renowned husband-and-wife team Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins left the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in 2011 to return to the United States. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two star scientists wooed here to drive Singapore's biomedical push over a decade ago are relinquishing key leadership positions at the Agency of Science and Technology (A*Star), after more than a decade at the head of major research institutes.

Professor Jackie Ying, executive director of the the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), and Professor Birgitte Lane, head of the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB), will step down on March 31 next year (2018).

Both women belong to a pool of top researchers, coined "whales", many of whom were wooed here by former A*Star chairman Philip Yeo from all over the world to kick-start Singapore's foray into the biomedical sciences almost two decades ago.

Here are some of the other top-notch hires in the biomedical sciences scene - some have left Singapore while others have remained in other positions.

- American scientist Edison Liu, a world leader in cancer research and genomics, left in 2011 after 10 years of building the Genome Institute of Singapore from scratch. He moved to Singapore in 2001, and is considered the first star researcher to land on Singapore's shores. He is now president at the Jackson Laboratory, a famous cancer research institute in the US.

- American husband-and-wife team Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins left the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) in 2011 after five years. Dr Copeland was IMCB's executive director and Dr Jenkins was deputy director of IMCB's genetics and genomics division. The internationally-acclaimed scientists, who have identified hundreds of genes that cause cancer, moved to Texas, where they co-head a cancer research laboratory at Houston Methodist Research Institute.

 

- Sir David Lane, who is currently A*Star's chief scientist, was executive director of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology from 2004 to 2007. He and his wife, Prof Birgitte Lane, originally from the University of Dundee in Scotland, came to Singapore in 2005 to help shore up Singapore's biomedical scene. Sir David, who was knighted in Britain in 2000 for his efforts in cancer research, is one of the scientists who discovered a tumour-suppressing gene, called p53, in 1979. The mutations in this gene are known to cause almost half of all human cancers.


Professor Birgitte Lane and her husband, Sir David Lane - who is currently A*Star's Chief Scientist - were originally from Scotland's University of Dundee. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO  

- Dr Judith Swain and Dr Edward Holmes, a prominent scientist couple from the University of California, San Diego, were recruited in 2006 to join A*Star. Dr Swain, a specialist in cardiology, was the founding executive director of the Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences for about seven years. The couple are currently both senior fellows at A*Star. Dr Holmes is also executive deputy chairman of the Biomedical Research Council, Singapore.


Dr Judith Swain and Dr Edward Holmes are currently both senior fellows at A*Star. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO