In the relentless pursuit of groundbreaking solutions to global challenges, the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) stands at the forefront of scientific innovation. Building on a successful and eventful 2023, we eagerly anticipate the opportunities that this coming year holds. With a steadfast commitment to research in their respective fields, our staff at SMART share their 2024 goals, hopes for scientific advancements and the potential impact of their research. Read on below as we unveil the collective vision of SMART and aspirations for the new year.
“In 2024, a focus will be to raise the bar on research-to-impact and multi-investigator research endeavours. One way we’re looking to do that at SMART is to launch new integrated Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) programmes.
As part of our commitment to pushing the boundaries of research and creating impactful solutions for society, a key priority is to foster stronger collaborations between our Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs) and the SMART Innovation Centre throughout the entirety of the research programmes. This will facilitate a better understanding of societal interests and needs, and translate research into industry implementation and real-world impact.” - Eugene A. Fitzgerald, CEO and Director, SMART
“In my research, I focus on addressing the pressing societal challenge of antibiotic resistance by contributing to the development of rapid diagnostics for the detection of infectious diseases. By creating efficient and accurate diagnostic tools to swiftly identify pathogens, we empower individuals and healthcare providers, thereby stemming transmission and guiding targeted treatments. Effective diagnostics minimise the unnecessary use of antibiotics, avoiding overexposure and reducing the selective pressure that drives antibiotic resistance. With widespread access to rapid diagnostics, we can optimise antibiotic use, improve patient outcomes and, most importantly, slow down the evolution of antibiotic resistance. This research has the potential to revolutionise healthcare practices, promote sustainability in the fight against infectious diseases and safeguard the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations.” -Lee Wei Lin, Principal Research Scientist at SMART Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
“In 2024, we are particularly excited about expanding upon the research that earned us the Innovation 2.0 Grant – venture design funding. Our project, titled 'A Platform for Quantitative RNA Sequencing and Modification Mapping', is set to break new ground in the study of the epitranscriptome. We are poised to develop a pioneering mass spectrometry-based technology for the precise mapping and quantification of RNA modifications. This innovative approach has significant implications, as these modifications are crucial in cell physiology, disease pathology and microbial drug resistance. Our research will further impact the growing field of RNA-based therapeutics by improving the understanding and manipulation of RNA modifications. As 2024 unfolds, we are eager to witness the transition of our research from the bench to the bedside.” - Wu Junzhou, Senior Postdoctoral Associate at SMART AMR
“One of the aims of our research is to maximise food production through innovative solutions, to address the pressing issue of climate change's impact on global food production. Our current focus involves optimising the production of hard-to-express proteins in lab-grown cell cultures. By reengineering messenger RNA, cells, and their environments, we strive to enhance protein yields for applications such as nutraceuticals and food proteins. Though currently on a smaller scale, our long-term goal is to upscale these innovations for industrial use, significantly improving the efficiency of food production systems. We aim to address declining food production, fostering a more resilient and environmentally conscious global food supply.” - Fabian Hia, Senior Postdoctoral Associate at SMART AMR
“Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy is an immunotherapy that works as a salvage treatment for eliminating tumours using genetically engineered T cells obtained from patients themselves. Six CAR-T cell therapies, mainly targeting blood cancers, have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and some of them are currently being used in Singapore. Despite the high success rate, potentially serious and even life-threatening side effects associated with the cell therapy, e.g. cytokine release syndrome or immune effector cell associated neurotoxicity (ICANS) can develop after treatment. Since the side effects can worsen rapidly, and the demand for CAR-T cell therapies is expected to keep increasing in future, it is essential to develop simple, fast and cost-effective methods to predict the onset of and monitor common side effects for better patient care after the cell therapies as soon as possible.” - Cheung Ka Wai Faye, Senior Postdoctoral Associate at SMART Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalized-Medicine (CAMP)
“I think we are living in very exciting times where significant advances in cell therapy are unlocking new frontiers in cancer treatment and regenerative medicine. With an increasing demand for cell-based therapies and the emergence of new treatment modalities, the field is constantly challenged to reinvent around existing safety and regulatory frameworks to keep pace. In particular, I envision greater strides in the area of safety testing of cell products for harmful contaminants, including viruses, bacteria and fungi; innovative, cost-effective methods of contaminant detection that can inform on the safety of the cell product in a timely manner. This is exactly what SMART CAMP is doing in collaboration with our clinical, industry and academic partners: to realise and expedite cell-based therapies that are safe for all patients.” - Cheryl Chan, Research Scientist at SMART CAMP
“Donor-to-donor variability and intra-population heterogeneity have been one of the obstacles that impeded the success of stem cell therapy. Process improvement in stem cell manufacturing is critical to overcome these challenges. For example, identification of critical quality attributes for a specific indication; development of label-free and real-time process analytical technologies; integration of machine learning and predictive models for quality of culture-expanded stem cells; and feedback control systems enabling cellular phenotype modulation, are important steps to improve quality and functionality of cell therapy products. Collaboration across institutes and interdisciplinary research that involves researchers, clinicians, bioinformaticians and other stakeholders play important roles in accelerating the progress in stem cell therapy.” - Tee Ching Ann, Postdoctoral Associate at SMART CAMP
“Singapore has been actively exploring and investing in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) to enhance food security and reduce reliance on food imports. Given the government's initiatives and global agriculture trends, I envision that over the next five years, Singapore will emerge as a global leader in vertical farming technology. The integration of smart technologies, including novel sensors developed in Singapore, automation, and data analytics, will enhance the precision and efficiency of resource use in CEA, maximising yield and minimising environmental impact. Continued R&D investment will drive innovation in CEA – such as the development of new cultivation techniques, seed and crop varieties adapted to controlled environments, and sustainable practices to further improve efficiency and productivity. An increased emphasis on the circular economy and sustainability, with efforts to adopt renewable energy sources and reduce waste, will gain traction. Floating vertical farms of Singapore in sea-based vessels, which can use renewable energy and help compensate for land scarcity, may become a reality.” - Gajendra Pratap Singh, Senior Scientific Director and Principal Investigator at SMART Disruptive & Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision (DiSTAP)
“At LEES Plus, we are actively working to bring all the critical semiconductor components (Si and GaN) on a single chip – leading to better miniaturisation, improved power budget and reduced production cost. In 2024, we seek to enable greener and more eco-friendly transport, healthcare and communication technology, as we advance the integration of Si and GaN-based Integrated Circuits to create a standalone system without any dependence on the support-system and with better packaging. As an effort to get one step closer to industrial relevance, we are developing a new process flow that can help us achieve these goals with good scope for commercialisation and wider reach. I am looking towards building more cooperation and communication with SMART-LEES partners that will help me to gain expertise in the field of fabrication and characterisation.” - Swanand Solanke, Senior Postdoctoral Associate at SMART Low Energy Electronics System (LEES) Plus
“The principal objective of the M3S program is to promote collaboration and integration between MIT researchers and their counterparts in Singapore, encompassing both researchers and partners. Our aim for the year 2024 is to further develop a unified M3S Research team, fostering open, productive, and innovative learning environments to encourage interaction between local Singaporean scholars, practitioners, and M3S researchers. The consolidation of seven distinct projects into a cohesive program underscores the importance of effective communication among team members and the exchange of ideas through collaborative efforts.
The creation of effective technologies requires a profound understanding of both the technology itself and the context in which it will be implemented. In 2024, we aim to delve deeper into the specific needs of our research partners and assess how technology can adeptly meet their challenges, ultimately boosting productivity. This will be accomplished by cultivating robust working relationships with our partners in Singapore.” - Kakali Basak, Program Manager at SMART M3S
“In 2024, our team at M3S is excited to advance two main projects focusing on human-machine intelligence. The first aims to enhance economic growth through novel machine-learning algorithms that leverage human activity data to boost social capital and economic development. The second project explores human capital evolution, crafting an AI-assisted framework to aid in job decision-making, supporting lifelong learning, and promoting work engagement. Both projects integrate ethical AI with practical applications in field experiments, contributing to the growth of Singapore's economy and the well-being of its workforce. Through collaborations with industry, academia, and government bodies, we're poised to create impactful strategies for societal and economic improvement.” - Dingyi Zhuang, MIT PhD Student at SMART M3S