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A*STAR Singapore Brings Tech Innovations from Lab to Real World

Even as a newly independent country with scarce natural resources, Singapore knew that the key to its survival lay in the one thing that could help the country overcome its natural limits: science and technology.

Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR’s) research and development (R&D) efforts have enabled the country to address emerging challenges and seed capabilities in critical areas. But while R&D is an unquestionably valuable resource, capturing value through commercialising those research efforts is equally important.

In today’s hypercompetitive world and challenging global trade environment, innovation is a key driver for Singapore’s long-term economic growth.

– Sze Wee Tan, Assistant Chief Executive, Enterprise Division, A*STAR

A*STAR’s commercialisation initiatives have since resulted in a steady stream of landmark patents and successful collaborations, all of which have set Singapore on the path towards being an innovation-driven, knowledge-based economy, rich in job and research opportunities alike.

The Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) took a big step forward when they produced the world’s first patented adaptive audio streaming technology. Their invention not only compressed music files with little distortion or fidelity loss, but also enabled streaming at different qualities depending on the device type or available bandwidth.

Beyond the steady stream of patents from A*STAR research institutes, A*STAR also has collaborated with several companies and the Centre of Excellence in Advanced Packaging between Applied Materials (AMAT) and the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) as stellar examples of successful R&D commercialisation. While strong patents can arise from the focused efforts of individual researchers, collaborations can generate a patent portfolio that enables platform or system applications.

A*STAR also assists other companies in translating technology into products. For example, SIMTech’s Innovation Factory provides support for Singapore SMEs from ideation to the design and engineering stage, while A*STAR’s open innovation platform A*StartCentral (A*SC) fosters an ecosystem that encourages venture creation.

A*STAR forges ahead in its mission to continue generating economic and societal impact for Singapore and the world. Guiding the agency’s efforts is the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 (RIE2025) plan, which sets the blueprint for the Republic’s science and technology efforts.

A*STAR will also focus on further developing private-public partnership platforms, such as the DxD Hub and the Experimental Drug Development Centre (EDDC), which connect researchers and companies to enable the rapid production of diagnostic tests and treatments. Recognising that Singapore’s most critical resource remains its people, A*STAR intends to continue its talent development strategy to build a strong core of local scientific talent complemented by international researchers.

Since the genesis of its R&D journey decades ago, Singapore has firmly established a vibrant research and innovation ecosystem. Through the Enterprise division, A*STAR will build upon those successes and deliver even more value through science and technology.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, a team of researchers from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) have developed software that extracts RNA modifications (an additional layer of the information above the genetic molecule RNA) from genomics data. Their research was published in Nature Biotechnology.

For RNAs, chemical molecules may change the function of the same RNA. These RNA modifications are widespread, but because they do not change the letters of the RNA, they are very difficult to identify. More than 100 RNA modifications are known to play different roles in cells. Some of these RNA modifications are associated with disease risk, while others are used in mRNA vaccines.

By collaborating with the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore (NCIS), the team successfully detected the m6A RNA modification using the AI tool in multiple myeloma cancer patient samples, showing the AI tool’s potential for large-scale clinical analyses. The scientists have been interested in studying m6A modification in myeloma as this may have important clinical and therapeutic implications for patients with poor outcomes. Now with the AI tool, they have an important tool to facilitate their studies.

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