Researchers at A*STARS’s Bioinformatics Institute (BII) and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have developed a highly efficient and accurate cellular imaging platform for predicting the toxicity of compounds to the kidney.
To briefly mention, chemical compounds which may originate from food, medicine, or even the environment, could be harmful and injure one’s kidney and impair its function of eliminating waste from the body. From this, one-fifth of such cases in medical institutions are found to be attributed to nephrotoxic drugs.
As of yet, there are no accurate methods to screen for large numbers of potentially nephrotoxic compounds with diverse chemical structures.
Existing approaches that predict the toxicity of chemical compounds are carried out through animal testing, which is extremely expensive. Asides from being unable to screen the ever-increasing numbers of potentially nephrotoxic compounds used in products, ethical issues are of great concern.
Other measures are similarly slow, laborious, and costly. Some might even require pre-requisites for this.
Thus, what distinguishes this new innovation is that it is the first and only cell-based renal screening platform that can predict nephrotoxicity with high accuracy. This innovation is especially useful for countries with bans for cosmetics e.g. EU, India, Norway.
Dr Lit-Hsin Loo, Principal Investigator from BII who co-authored the study, said, “By automatically analysing more than 25,000 microscopy images of cells treated with different compounds, we were able to identify phenotypic signatures of kidney cells that can be used to predict the in vivo toxicity of compounds with diverse structures and mechanisms, with a validated accuracy of 80 – 90%.”
Improvements have been made as researchers have now developed an imaging-based method that can be used to test much larger numbers of compounds.
Ultimately, there is still a need to continue researching and working together to improve and further validate the use of this approach, to ensure that their work will help to make products safer for consumers and patients
Image from A*STAR-BII and IBN researchers who developed the world’s first high-throughput imaging platform for predicting kidney toxicity (clockwise from bottom left) : Dr Ran Su, Dr Lit-Hsin Loo, Dr Daniele Zink and Dr Sijing Xiong)
To improve Singapore’s biologics manufacturing capabilities, top pharmaceutical companies will collaborate with research groups from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and its innovation and enterprise company, NTUitive.
Through the Biologics Pharma Innovation Programme Singapore (BioPIPS), a consortium founded by A*STAR with assistance from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), their relationship will be formally established.
BioPIPS aims to expand Singapore’s biologics production capabilities, including those for vaccines and recombinant therapeutic proteins. Biologics and vaccinations were crucial in averting severe sickness and saving lives worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leading industry professionals and Singapore’s research ecosystem will join forces through the consortium to increase manufacturing productivity, boost operational effectiveness, and meet sustainability objectives. The consortium’s goal is to best-in-class and position Singapore’s biologics manufacturing capabilities for the introduction of new products and cutting-edge production techniques.
Professor Lim Keng Hui, Assistant Chief Executive, Science and Engineering Research Council, A*STAR stated that new opportunities will arise as the biomanufacturing industry goes through significant changes brought on by the rapid pace of digitalisation, Industry 4.0, and the need for greater sustainability.
A*STAR seeks to contribute its R&D capabilities through BioPIPS to help the local biomanufacturing industry become more agile and better positioned to benefit from new products and technologies. Also, in its Research, Innovation, and Enterprise 2025 Plan, Singapore prioritises biopharmaceutical production.
BioPIPS expands on the consortium concept created by the Pharma Innovation Programme Singapore (PIPS), which was intended to strengthen Singapore’s capabilities in the production of small molecule pharmaceuticals consisting of chemical compounds.
Based on the success of PIPS, BioPIPS seeks to strengthen Singapore’s innovative capabilities in the production of biologics and vaccines by utilising the strengths of the top pharmaceutical firms and academic institutions.
The programme will create cutting-edge production technologies and solutions that are highly productive, sustainable, and innovative. Singapore is eager to expand collaborations with businesses that share its values to enhance its status as a centre to produce biopharmaceuticals worldwide.
BioPIPS will specifically feature three workstreams: First is the Sensing and Modelling Workstream intends to use smart sensors, mechanistic modelling, and machine learning to provide streamlined and quicker procedures. Data analytics will make it possible to effectively translate acquired process information into performance enhancements, which will benefit the manufacturing process.
Second is the Sustainability Workstream concentrates on addressing sustainability issues in the production of biologics and vaccines, which frequently require single-use (disposable) equipment because of the ultra-sterile conditions required for product purity. To address this challenge, this workstream will investigate the use of innovative materials, circular economy strategies, and models to encourage more resilient and sustainable supply chains.
And the third is the Compliant Agility Workstream which aims to increase productivity in manufacturing facilities while preserving compliance status by eliminating manual operations and utilising tools like robotics and cutting-edge analytics.
The Manufacturing 2030 vision of Singapore, which intends to anchor leading manufacturing operations to increase the nation’s manufacturing value-add by 50% from 2020, is consistent with BioPIPS.
The solutions created by BioPIPS will also improve Singapore’s capacity to meet the rising demand for biologics and vaccines around the world and give local pharmaceutical firms the tools they need to expand and react more quickly to pandemics in the future.
Researchers from The University of Waikato in New Zealand have developed an electronic fruit bin that aids in the harvesting of kiwifruit. The automatic robot, which aims to make picking easier, won the Prototype Prize at the Fieldays Innovations Awards.
According to Nick Pickering, a lecturer at the University’s School of Engineering, the team was challenged to use automation technology to create something that would assist kiwifruit pickers on orchards, thereby opening jobs to a larger group of people.
Ultimately, Pickering says that the e-BIN had to be designed to be technically feasible, financially viable and desirable to all stakeholders.
“As a result, we devised this solution that will allow more people to pick kiwifruit. The key point is that we need something simple that can be commercialised quickly to help address the labour shortages that we’re experiencing,” he shared.
Robot to weightlifting physical labour
The concept arose to solve the kiwi industry’s severe labour shortages problem, particularly during harvest. Kiwifruit picking can be physically demanding because workers must carry a large bag
that they fill as they go. When full, it can weigh up to 25kg and must be emptied into a larger bin. While many people enjoy working outside, they are unable to handle the weight and constant bending involved in harvesting.
The e-BIN eliminates the need to pick the fruit. Rather than carrying a bag, a group of four pickers can walk alongside the e-BIN, which is on wheels. Each kiwifruit is picked and placed in a fruit catcher on the e-BIN. A net cushion secures the fruit before it falls and lands in the main bin.
The e-BIN human-assisted harvesting project was developed in collaboration with top kiwi leaders in the industry in New Zealand, who served as project sponsors. It has also included students, academics, and industry experts from the School of Engineering.
Pickering claims that their robot has a different system than the overseas Kiwi machine. According to him, the machine can be fine-tuned to suit other growing systems.
From an industrial standpoint, assisted robotics has the potential to solve many problems, but must be commercially viable. Through this project, they hope to determine the total financial cost-benefit ratio. Importantly, the project must address the need to expand the labour pool.
The innovation was recognised at the Fieldays Innovation Awards, where it won the Prototype Award and a NZ$10,000 cash prize to be used for testing the system in other markets.
The e-BIN has been tested both in the lab and in the field. The researcher first tests it with 3D-printed fruit before moving on to field testing. During the testing phase, researchers examined a variety of factors, including productivity and fruit damage. The results indicate that the e-BIN can reduce fatigue and operate safely in an orchard environment. Pickering believes the e-BIN will be validated in trials this season and commercialised soon after.
New Zealand places a high value on agricultural technology advancement. According to a recent OpenGov Asia report, the Massey University AgriFood Digital Lab is collaborating with the NZ Product Accelerator to establish a new agricultural technology centre in Palmerston North.
The AgriFood Digital Lab at Massey University is an industry-focused research facility that focuses on horticulture, precision agriculture, robotics, advanced materials, sports analytics, and biotechnology. Its primary goal is to create agritech solutions to industry challenges.
While NZ Product Accelerator is a government-funded programme that helps companies accelerate product development by utilising New Zealand’s brand of business. In essence, it is an incubator programme comprised of top technology experts to assist startups and businesses in their quest for success.
It should be able to provide the “missing science” in the field of agricultural technology through this new research centre. It had done so previously for numerous New Zealand companies in new product development, problem-solving, and embedding technological innovation.
Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC), is a new USS$20 million initiative from the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the U.S. that encourages two-year institutions that serve primarily undergraduate students, minority-serving institutions, and other emerging research institutions to take part in local innovation ecosystems. The programme will give training and networking support to help establish more inclusive ecosystems.
EPIIC will provide up to US$ 400,000 over three years to develop the capacity and institutional knowledge needed to build new partnerships and secure future external funding, enabling awardees to tap into their regional innovation ecosystems and potentially into an NSF Regional Innovation Engine (NSF Engine).
According to NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, the NSF strives to inspire broad networks of partners to work together to train the next generation of skilled American workers. In addition, the programme will generate chances for more inclusive engagement in entrepreneurship, startups, and other commercialisation activities, all of which are essential to the American research and innovation business.
The goal of the NSF Engines programme is to expand inclusive innovation ecosystems across the country. The programme acknowledges the need for additional targeted support for the infrastructure and resources required to grow external partnerships and tap into innovation ecosystems, including interacting with NSF Engines, for many institutions, including minority-serving institutions, small academic institutions, and two-year institutions.
Through EPIIC, institutions will take part in interactive online and live events to build cohorts and jointly create effective strategies to increase their capacity to collaborate across sectors. Participating institutions will develop strategies to advance efforts in workforce development, use-inspired research and development, and the translation of research results to practice in emerging technology areas such as microelectronics, advanced wireless, biotechnology, quantum information science, semiconductors, advanced manufacturing and artificial intelligence (AI).
Moreover, the NSF has joined the federal and university partners to announce a unique engagement between the U.S. government and academic stakeholders to aid researchers facing a broad spectrum of hazards to research integrity and security.
The Safeguarding Science toolset was designed with the scientific community for the scientific community. It provides research stakeholders with a single destination to acquire security best practices from across government and academia and to select solutions adapted to their unique needs.
Developed by the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Centre in partnership with NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Transportation and its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Health and Human Services the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the American Association of Universities, the toolkit will promote a robust and resilient U.S. research ecosystem that emphasises integrity, collaboration, openness and security, all of which facilitate innovation.
The Safeguarding Science online toolkit is created for individuals and organisations in the U.S. scientific, academic and emerging-technology sectors that are wanting to develop strategies to protect research, technology and staff from theft, abuse, misuse or exploitation. The toolkit provides a framework for researchers to openly interact while building precautions that keep theft, abuse, and other risks at bay.
The toolkit reflects NSF’s commitment to partnering with the research community and U.S. government scientific and intelligence organisations to exchange information, best practices, and tools to mitigate risks and foster international collaboration to guarantee a flourishing research environment.
China started building the Tianfu data centre, a national hub node for the Chengdu-Chongqing integrated computing power network. The “East Counting West Counting” project was inaugurated in February this year and includes eight national hub nodes of the national computer network, of which the Chengdu-Chongqing node is one.
The Sichuan province is the centre of the project and will focus on building Tianfu data centre clusters. The province has been selected after carefully analysing Sichuan’s industrial layout, energy structure, geology, climate, and other factors. Several internal data centres will be built in cities and form a province-wide integration of “cluster-city” complementarity and “cloud-edge” coordination data centre system.
The Tianfu data centre cluster starting area will be constructed to a high standard by 2025, and it will have a capacity of 500,000 racks. By 2030, computing power and effectiveness will be at a national advanced level and serve as the project’s central node.
The Sichuan node will become an important base for the development of China’s computing power network, said Chen Jing, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Sichuan is capable of simultaneously performing the jobs of “East Counting” and “West Counting.” The five terms “Digital Network,” “Digital Button,” “Digital Chain,” “Digital Brain,” and “Digital Shield” are used to describe how to do it.
The hub node was simply written as “1+N” in Chinese. The Tianfu data centre cluster at the national level is identified as number 1. The cluster consists of the Tianfu New District-based supercomputing industry cluster, the Chengdu High-tech Zone-based intelligent computing industry cluster, and the Eastern New District-based cloud and edge computing industry cluster.
The five internal data centres located in cities Mianyang, Deyang, Ya’an, Yibin, Dazhou and other locations are referred to as N.
The importance of the Sichuan node
The Sichuan node is a major structure for the East Counting and West Computing national integrated big data centre innovation system. The node will encourage the quick development of a brand-new network architecture for computing power in China. It is fostering the regional integration of high-speed intelligence, green technology and affordable computing power network resources.
China’s computer networks are still unable to supply enough computational capacity. Additionally, the systems for computer-network coordination are also unable to accurately respond to demands for computing power.
The network initiative can resolve China’s future computer power issues. Current issues with China’s computing power architecture include the lack of intelligent computing power, a dearth of heterogeneous computing power and less coordinated data centre growth.
Accelerated data circulation and value transfer between east and west will comprehensively support the digital upgrade and industrial digital transformation of various industries.
The upstream and downstream industries will both experience high-quality development as a result of the implementation of the “Digital from the East and Computation from the West” project and the building of a new computing power network system.
Chen is confident that the current computing revolution would affect the future and feels it will lead to an even greater digital change. Increased processing power will drive the creation and use of big data, artificial intelligence and technologies. Even currently, computational power is being deployed to address productivity challenges.
Science, engineering, technology, and innovation give people the power to develop a country and its quality of life. Investment in these areas is vital for economic growth and social progress.
Research and development in smart tech can help build greener cities with better access to essential systems and services for all. Moreover, infrastructure development, technology transfer and public and private R&D must be supported and regulated by good policies if they are to work.
To ensure scientific progress is encouraged and embraced at all levels of government decision-making, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) is tasked with giving strategic advice to the government and stakeholders, as well as pursuing excellence in science, engineering, and technology for the benefit of everyone.
Malaysia’s S.E.T.I. Initiatives
One of the contributions of the ASM is to incorporate interactive learning of STEM into the pedagogy of education in Malaysian schools. “To see the performance and results, inquiry-based science education (IBSE) will create an interactive learning environment in the physical classroom. Therefore, we want to have this kind of ecosystem and environment in schools.”
She is eager to see more collaboration between tertiary education and industry so that any courses and curricula provided by universities are both industry-required and future-proof. This is why their organisation is working with the government to create collaboration between industry and academia. “I believe that will help us advance more.”
ASM is currently working with the Malaysian government, in particular the central agency, to begin evaluating public decision-making universities based on data. Hence, using facts, metrics, and data to inform strategic business decisions that align with goals, objectives, and initiatives is the most effective data-driven decision-making.
Making data-driven decisions the norm within an organisation is necessary to foster a climate that values scepticism and curiosity. “Data is the starting point of conversations at every level, and people improve their data skills through practice and application,” says Hazami.
At its core, this calls for a self-service model where users can access the data they require while maintaining a balance between security and governance. Additionally, it necessitates proficiency, resulting in opportunities for training and development for workers to acquire data skills.
Additionally, ASM has developed a Responsible Conduct of Research module which acts as a benchmark to have this code of ethics in research taught to all graduates, whether they are in hard sciences or the social sciences.
“We want that because every piece of knowledge we incorporate in the future will be based on good science and value. Therefore, we must consider bioethics, biosecurity, and training modules on ethics in research,” Hazami explains.
ASM has recently directed its scientists to provide solutions in close collaboration with the ministries. Citing as an example is their committee on water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity (WEHAB++). For instance, when Malaysia faces issues such as the price hike for chicken feed which causes societal dissatisfaction, solutions to food security issues such as this can be provided by the Academy’s expert network through science and technology directly to the government and stakeholders.
In addition to providing policies and strategies to decision-makers, the ASM also teaches them how to carry out those policies and strategies by applying their knowledge.
Hazami highlighted the growing movement called “Open Science” which aims to open scientific data and research to the public. In addition to democratising knowledge, the international principle of making research data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) will support open scientific inquiry and integrity, facilitate improved research management, and encourage data-intensive research.
Unprecedented insights and solutions to local, regional, and global complex challenges are made possible by integrating numerous data streams and enormous datasets across numerous disciplines.
Through the Malaysia Open Science Alliance, the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change (MESTECC), now known as the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and the ASM are laying the groundwork for the realisation of the Malaysia Open Science Platform (MOSP), a strategic transformative project to strengthen Malaysia’s STI Collaborative Ecosystem.
“The Malaysia Open Science Platform or MOSP aims to connect raw research data, then collaborate and share,” Hazami explains. “By creating a reliable platform that enables accessibility and sharing of research data aligned to national priorities and international best practices, this initiative seeks to transform Malaysia’s research data into a valuable national asset.”
Hazami is passionate about science and technology because it has the power to change the nation. “I’m attempting to make a change, and one of those changes is in the area of science and technology.”
For her, the most meaningful contribution in her 26 years in the academy was when the government accepted 80% of their recommendations for transforming and creating change and an ecosystem. “For now, our current areas of focus are strengthening governance, the innovation ecosystem and the sustainability of R&D funding.”
A change in paradigm towards a growth mindset among policymakers, scientists and the younger generations is her greatest challenge and greatest passion. She believes that when decision-making is based on data, it can provide the best solution possible.
Hazami strongly believes that Malaysian women are more than capable of pursuing careers in science and technology. They hope to have a strong support network to help them succeed in those fields, whether as practitioners or scientists.
“Our goal is flexibility. We need to have an open work environment and open innovation because we can work from home as researchers and scientists. We are more adaptable now. If we can accomplish this, more and more women will contribute to the workforce more effectively,” she says emphatically.
By reaching out to the top management and demystifying technical terms, OpenGov Asia, a steadfast supporter of Malaysia’s digital transformation journey and an advocate for citizen-centric development, will continue to help bring about change. Hazami concludes by urging top leaders to practice a growth mindset for the betterment of the country.
Hazami strongly believes that over the course of the next five years, ASM will continue to serve as a catalyst for change and create the science, technology, innovation, and economy (STIE) ecosystem for the entire nation towards the full potential of digital transformation, including the Malaysian transformation and the humanisation of the economy. “Leaders’ courageous decisions pave the road to successful digital transformation.”
The Institute for Digital Molecular Analytics and Science (IDMxS), which aims to promote the science of analysing biological molecules (biomolecules) using information technology and data science, was recently established by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore). This could pave the way for real-time environmental or health data monitoring and analysis, like how real-time traffic data can be obtained on mobile devices.
IDMxS, NTU’s newest national Research Centre of Excellence (RCE), is funded with a total investment of over S$160 million over 10 years, with the majority coming from NTU and the National University of Singapore and S$94 million coming from the Singapore Ministry of Education.
Digital molecular analytics, a novel scientific discipline that analyses individual molecules to discover, identify, and measure biomolecules with extraordinary accuracy, is at the core of the work done at IDMxS.
Such a science will open many new areas of research, such as the creation of diagnostic testing capabilities that may then inspire the creation of new technologies and commercial spinoffs, including blood testing kits that can generate findings instantly using nothing more than a smartphone camera.
The interdisciplinary centre is anticipated to house 100 full-time researchers and employees with backgrounds ranging throughout the spectrum of engineering and science, from optics, computer science, and artificial intelligence (AI) to biology, medical technology, and chemistry.
Postgraduate students from NTU will have exceptional chances for interdisciplinary education and training that spans the molecular sciences and information technology through the graduate programme of IDMxS. More than 30 PhD students will receive support from the Centre, four of whom have already begun their studies. As clinical diagnostics become more digital, IDMxS will also create continuing education programmes aimed at developing and modernising the healthcare workforce.
By fusing the fields of biology and information technology – which have each recently undergone revolutionary changes – IDMxS will create the new science of digital molecular analytics. The objective is to develop tools that can track environmental data, such as air and water quality, and health information, like viral infections or molecular signatures that signal the existence of a disease, in real-time. To develop innovative solutions for issues with health, sickness, and environmental monitoring, this process begins with the development of fundamental science.
The ability to simultaneously gather a variety of data types from a biological sample and use tools like AI and machine learning algorithms to analyse and interpret the enormous volume of data that would otherwise be impossible for humans to make sense of is at the core of IDMxS’ digital molecular analytical strategies. The research centre intends to someday spin out solutions like widely used software using digital molecular analytics.
Moreover, making blood sample test kits is one potential use for digital molecular analytics that IDMxS is investigating. The goal of this research is to create a tool that can recognise the various chemicals responsible for illnesses, infections, and diseases.
This suggests that a physician might someday be able to take a blood sample, analyse it with a smartphone camera, and obtain an accurate, real-time reading next to the patient at the doctor’s table. A similar idea might do away with the necessity for additional time-consuming laboratory tests.
The extensive surveillance of illnesses spread by insects like dengue and malaria is another project that is now under development. Researchers can one day create an imaging system that can swiftly detect and monitor dengue among the mosquito population by recognising and analysing the chemicals that make up the dengue virus. Such studies might also be used to track other airborne infections and infectious diseases, in addition to insect-borne diseases that affect urban health.
In a bid to become a digital airline, the Vietnam Airlines Engineering Company Ltd (VAECO), a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, has signed a cooperation agreement with private players to deploy an aircraft maintenance and engineering management software system. Under the agreement, the system will provide technical management tools, manage the maintenance programme more closely, and more efficiently synchronise data. This will contribute to reducing maintenance costs and time, improving the operational readiness factor for the fleet.
The software also provides tools for planning, controlling maintenance procedures, and managing human resources to optimise production processes. It will minimise labour costs for recording and data entry and work control, leading to an overall increase in labour productivity, by an estimated 15-20%
The software provides synchronous information about failure status, maintenance history, and the status of spare parts. This enables technicians to make effective and timely repair decisions. It is expected to reduce flight stoppages, delays, and cancellations.
Furthermore, the system will shorten the aircraft maintenance time and create favourable conditions for the airline to concentrate human resources to expand the outside maintenance market share. The Deputy General Director of Vietnam Airlines, Nguyen Chien Thang, noted that the new technology will make an important contribution to helping VAECO become a leading aircraft maintenance service provider in the region while accelerating digital transformation.
Currently, Vietnam Airlines is the airline with the largest fleet in Vietnam, with more than 100 aircraft including Boeing 787, Airbus A350, A321, A321neom, and ATR72. The airline is constantly modernising its fleet, as well as improving its aircraft maintenance capacity and mastering new technologies.
In January, the airline launched two e-commerce platforms VNAMAZING, VNAMALL as well as its Vietnam Airlines Gift Card. The services were the first of their kind in the domestic aviation sector. VNAMAZING offers online tourism services including tour and accommodation bookings. VNAMALL provides a wide range of aviation and non-aviation goods and services.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the Vietnam Airlines Gift Card is a product available on VNAMALL, which can be used to exchange airline tickets or avail of business class upgrade benefits on flights operated by Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines, and VASCO. An official from Vietnam Airlines said that the airline considers e-commerce development one of its top priorities.
In August, the carrier announced that passengers using the airline’s air service can now access a free-of-charge news-reader application called PressReader for Vietnamese and international publications. The application provides more than 7,000 digital newspaper and magazine titles available in over 70 languages. According to Vietnam Airlines, passengers can use the application 24 hours before the scheduled departure time and 24 hours after landing.
To use the app, passengers must download the Vietnam Airlines app, choose the PressReader button, and verify their booking code and flight information. Articles can be read online or downloaded for offline reading.
Most recently, Vietnam Airlines launched an online check-in service for passengers departing from Phu Bai airport in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue. The move increases efficiency and improves customer experience and convenience. Passengers are now able to check in via the official portal or the Vietnam Airlines application within 24 hours to one hour ahead of departure.