Young Singaporeans to watch: Fight club

SHEIK FARHAN SHEIK ALAU'DDIN, 23 Silat world champion

Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin, 23

Silat world champion

With two-time silat world champion Sheik Alau'ddin as his father, Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin has some grand shoes to fill.

He grew up watching his father's training sessions, going to the community club in Jalan Besar as regularly as he went to school, he said.

These days, he spends all his free time - sparse as it is as he is serving his national service - training.

He has swept the gold medals in the past few years at events like the SEA Games and Asian Games, and was crowned world champion in Bali in 2016.

He says silat is just "something I have to do". This year, with the coronavirus putting a pause on most things, he has trained even more efficiently and feels better prepared than ever, he said.

He added that with desire, effort and discipline - his three qualities for what makes a good athlete - anyone can succeed.

Quah Ting Wen, 28


After breaking two national shortcourse swimming records at the International Swimming League in Hungary in October and last month, Quah Ting Wen took a well-deserved break while serving her stay-home notice back in Singapore.


She is one of the few athletes who has had events to compete in this year. She swam again at the Olympic trials this month, just a few days after the end of her stayhome notice.

"I like to put myself in situations where I feel challenged. I want to see how I perform when I touch the water after being on land for two weeks," she said.

The 28-year-old said her mentality has changed this year.

Whereas in the past she found it difficult to separate pride from arrogance, she now gives herself credit where it is due and has greater trust in herself.

"Swimming well in Hungary and personal growth went hand in hand," she said.

Amanda Lim, 27



With no access to a pool or gym during the circuit breaker period, Amanda Lim, winner of six consecutive SEA Games 50m freestyle gold medals, worked out twice a day in April and May at the void deck of the housing block where her family lives.

It has been a strange year for the swimmer, with competitions, including the Olympics, postponed or cancelled. She said she is proud to have kept to her training routine nonetheless, which has kept her in form for swimming meets.

She is raring to add a seventh consecutive gold medal to her SEA Games haul. After clocking 25.06 seconds in her 50m SEA Games freestyle race last year, it will "definitely" be under 25 seconds come next year, she said.

Outside the pool, she is part of the product development team at Fullerton Health, working with others to supply healthcare professionals with medical equipment.

Andy Tay Kah Ping, 30



When he was seven, Assistant Professor Andy Tay was already asking questions such as "Why do tigers have stripes?" when he visited the zoo. When his parents failed to give him the answers, the curious boy would look them up in encyclopaedias.

He is now in the field of cancer research, pursuing answers to chronic healthcare problems like cancer and pain.

His research is motivated by his parents - his mother is a breast cancer survivor, while his father, who used to work as a construction worker and is now a taxi driver, suffers from lower back pain.

Hoping to create a real-world impact and one day help his loved ones and many other families, Prof Tayfocuses on developing nanomaterials to engineer immune cells for treating cancer.

An assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, he was the only Singaporean selected in the Class of 2020 World Economic Forum Young Scientists for his cutting-edge research.

Chen Chee Yang, 29

Founder of Carta Genomics


Born as an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) baby 29 years ago, entrepreneur Chen Chee Yang is now helping parents who go for IVF make one of their toughest decisions: which embryos to implant. Dr Chen founded Carta Genomics in 2018 to provide clinical- grade genomics testing to produce healthier IVF babies.

Employing machine learning, he is able to predict the risk of an embryo developing diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s later in life, based on the interactions between multiple genes and the environment.

A qualified doctor and neuroscience graduate from Imperial College London, he practised medicine in Britain before returning to Singapore to build his company. The firm has partnered top IVF clinics worldwide and is expanding its Singapore team, with the goal of bringing genetic testing to more Asians.

Lavenniah Annadoray, 29

PhD student


Determined to translate science from bench to bedside, Ms Lavenniah Annadoray set out to design a drug that can be administered with ease, given how most people struggle to stick to daily medications.

She went into research in engineering DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA) – both genetic sequences – to treat diseases. This led to the development of a new circular microRNA interference technology platform, which generates medications targeting the small RNA (or microRNA) that drives disease progression. The drugs are more stable and hence allow for longer dosing intervals.

Last month, Ms Annadoray became a recipient of the National University of Singapore’s Medicine Kickstart Initiative grant, which will support the commercialisation of the platform through a spinoff company that will be launched in Britain and Singapore.

Peter Yeow, 29



Mr Peter Yeow’s colour blindness may have got in the way of his dreams of being a doctor, but it was not a roadblock in his path in biology.

He decided to pursue a career in cancer research as another way to save lives and further his interest in the subject.

Currently pursuing a PhD in clinical medicine at Oxford University under a scholarship with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, he made a ground-breaking discovery in identifying a novel way to selectively kill aggressive breast cancer cells that have a specific genetic fault, while leaving normal cells unharmed.

What is even more promising is that this genetic mark is also found in many other cancer types. This result was so significant that the study was published in the journal Nature. Mr Yeow is one of the lead authors of the paper.


Find out more about these outstanding young Singaporeans:

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2020, with the headline 'Young Singaporeans to watch: Fight club'. Subscribe