NUS And Wilmar Team Up For Healthier Food

The WIL@NUS corporate laboratory will develop healthier foods such as a cooking oil that could reduce cholesterol levels in the elderly.

AsianScientist (Jul. 5, 2018) – Agribusiness group Wilmar International Limited (Wilmar) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have established a joint research laboratory to conduct clinical nutrition and synthetic biology research. The research is aimed at creating healthier food products, as well as developing green production technologies for industrial enzymes and biochemicals.

The new WIL@NUS corporate laboratory was officially launched on June 19, 2018 by Mr. Heng Swee Keat, minister for finance and chairman of the National Research Foundation Singapore. Based at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, the S$110 million (~US$80 million) research facility seeks to strengthen Singapore’s innovation ecosystem by conducting industry-relevant research and development.

Helmed by Associate Professor Matthew Chang, director of the NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation program, and Dr. Rebecca Lian, distinguished fellow at Wilmar, the 2,000 square meter laboratory will focus on addressing major public health issues through the development of healthier foods and ingredients as well as designing cost-effective and sustainable methods of producing chemical compounds using natural sources.

For example, the researchers will formulate healthier cooking oils that could reduce cholesterol levels in the elderly, which in turn could lower the risk of chronic diseases, increase muscle mass and improve taste perception. In addition, they will develop food products such as ready-to-eat meals and beverages that could control weight gain and blood glucose and lipid levels, thereby helping individuals manage diabetes and obesity.

Meanwhile, synthetic biology will be employed to engineer microbes and enzymes that function as ‘bio-factories’ to produce biochemicals from natural sources in a more sustainable and cost-effective way. Over the next five years, the joint laboratory expects to train more than 60 researchers and PhD students, who will play a critical role in supporting the growth of the food and nutrition, as well as the synthetic biology-related industries in Singapore and Asia.

“This win-win partnership combines NUS’ strong expertise in biomedical sciences and translational medicine with Wilmar’s rich industry experience and global networks to address two pressing real-world challenges—lifestyle-related diseases and sustainable production of industrial chemicals,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

“We look forward to working closely with Wilmar to create and commercialize scientific innovations to improve health outcomes as well as generate societal and economic benefits for Singapore, Asia and beyond.”


Source: National University of Singapore.
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