National University of Singapore (NUS) has taken a new research initiative called the NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation (SynCTI) to develop research capacity and capabilities in the emerging and fast-growing field, which has the potential to be the next engine for economic growth for technologically advanced countries, including Singapore.
Potential applications of synthetic biology include biosensing, therapeutics, and the production of biofuels, pharmaceuticals and novel biomaterials. The global market for synthetic biology is estimated to be more than $10 billion by 2016. Over the last two years, the Singapore National Research Foundation and Economic Development Board have made concerted efforts to create a conducive environment for synthetic biology to take root and grow in the country by developing local talent in foundational disciplines such as biochemical, metabolic, microbial and genome engineering as well as molecular, structural and systems biology. Professor Barry Halliwell, internationally acclaimed biochemist and Senior Advisor to NUS President, launched the NUS SynCTI initiative.
He said, "Synthetic biology is one of the most promising fields of modern science with far reaching applications, many of which are still undiscovered and unexplored. NUS' strong leadership in translational research stands us in good stead to contribute towards developing Singapore as one of the leading synthetic biology hubs in the world." NUS SynCTI will be helmed by Associate Professor Matthew Chang, who is a faculty member from the Department of Biochemistry at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
Assoc Prof Chang has been working in the field of synthetic biology for the past 10 years, and has since developed a pioneering approach of reprogramming cells for clinical and industrial applications.