AsianScientist (Dec. 10, 2021) – Singapore has presented the 2021 President’s Science and Technology Awards (PSTA) to five visionary scientists, recognizing their monumental contributions to the nation’s research and development landscape. The latest roster of winners were honored during a held on December 10, 2021 at The Istana.
The PSTA, which formerly began as the National Science and Technology Awards in 1987, represent the highest distinctions that Singapore can bestow upon its scientists and engineers. These awards highlight the great minds behind seminal discoveries and breakthrough innovations that have helped address pressing issues from biomedicine to materials engineering.
This year’s accolades include the President’s Science and Technology Medal (PSTM), President’s Science Award (PSA) and President’s Technology Award (PTA), conferred to five individual awardees from local scientific institutions. Strikingly, their research areas all intersect with the life sciences, showcasing Singapore’s continued progress in biotechnology and healthcare delivery.
Both 2021 PSTM winners—Professor Ivy Ng, Group Chief Executive Officer of SingHealth, and Professor Peter Gluckman, Chief Scientific Officer at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS)—have elevated the standard of child care.
Ng spearheaded a screening program for babies with hearing impairments and founded the National Thalassemia Registry to identify couples at risk of having children with an inherited blood disorder called thalassemia. Her game-changing pediatric care efforts have enhanced intervention protocols and clinical outcomes for both conditions.
“We are greatly encouraged by this recognition and it drives us to further pursue greater breakthroughs towards health and wellness for our population and beyond,” said Ng in her acceptance speech.
Pursuing early life research for over a decade, Gluckman is the scientific architect behind Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO), a long-running undertaking that seeks to understand the links between maternal health and early childhood development.
Besides impacting local healthcare policy, his work has helped nurture a pipeline of talent for the human potential domain, unlocking the secrets to holistic development.
“The award reflects the remarkable climate that Singapore has created for world-class medical research,” commented Gluckman over video. “I’m delighted that our work aligns with the mission of Singapore to advance its human potential.”
Over at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, Associate Professor Too Heng-Phon garnered this year’s PTA for his groundbreaking method to detect microRNA, molecular signals that are elevated in disease.
His research has since been commercialized by Singapore-based biotech company MiRXES, developing miRNA biomarker discovery and early cancer detection solutions, including the world’s first molecular blood test for screening gastric cancer risk.
Meanwhile, the 2021 PSA laureates are Professor Wang Linfa from Duke-NUS Medical School and Professor Chen Xiaodong from Nanyang Technological University Singapore for their instrumental work in infectious diseases and soft bioelectronics, respectively.
Wang has extensively studied bat biology and the spillover of viruses between different species, laying the groundwork for better prevention and control of highly transmissible diseases. He also helped develop a rapid test kit that detects neutralizing antibodies against the novel coronavirus—an innovation now used in over 50 countries to stave off COVID-19’s spread.
By mimicking the human nervous system, Chen has equipped soft robots and other materials with the gift of visual and tactile sensing, converting biological signals into electrical information. Through these endeavors, he is helping usher in the next generation of bioelectronics and functional materials, ranging from crop health monitoring technologies to healthcare wearables.
The main selection committee was chaired by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, Chief Scientist at the Singapore’s Ministry of Health. Since the awards were elevated to the Presidential level in 2009, over 60 laureates individually or in teams have been recognized. The PSTA continues to raise the level of excellence in research, igniting a spirit of innovation across Singapore.
Source: A*STAR; Illustration: Ajun Chuah/Asian Scientist Magazine.
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