Singapore's A*Star and Japan's Riken mark 10-years of scientific exchange

SINGAPORE - The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and RIKEN, Japan's largest comprehensive research institute in the natural sciences, have marked a 10-year milestone of research partnership.

A*STAR and RIKEN inked their first MOU September 2005 to encourage more opportunities for scientific exchange between Singapore and Japan. The MOU has since been renewed three times.

RIKEN established its first overseas international liaison office in 2006, attesting to its long-term commitment to the partnership with Singapore. The partnership has catalysed joint projects in fields ranging from the biomedical sciences to the physical sciences and engineering domains. This partnership has also offered opportunities to broaden scientific exchange through RIKEN's prestigious summer programmes in brain science and immunology.

The most recent renewal of the MOU will further build on the existing partnership to include mutual areas of interest in material science. This will continue to encourage sharing of ideas, co-advancing scientific capabilities, broadening research networks, and developing research talent.

Collaborative projects between A*STAR and RIKEN

· Biomaterials and hydrogels: Dr Loh Xian Jun from A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and Prof Yoshihiro Ito from RIKEN have successfully pioneered a new method of cell detachment using a novel temperature-sensitive biomaterial. This method has many applications in basic research, allowing scientists to better study adult human stem cells more efficiently. Currently, the process requires complicated chemical synthesis techniques whereas the new approach uses a "Drop-and-Dry" coating method. This method allows non-chemists to prepare their own temperature responsive cell culture surface for non-enzymatic detachment. This method will simplify experiments and facilitate the understanding of the cell differentiation process..

· Identification of novel immune cell subset: Dr Florent Ginhoux from A*STAR's Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) is collaborating with Dr Ichiro Taniuchi from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences, to characterize novel lymphoid populations in the epidermis. Tapping on IMS's strength in generating gene-manipulated mice and on SIgN's flow cytometry and bioinformatics analyses of small cell populations, the collaboration identified a novel lymphoid cell subset in the epidermis in mice and humans. This finding, which will soon be published in Nature Scientific Reports, has provided new insights into the skin's immune system and will deepen our understanding of the physiological and pathological roles of these new cell types during immune responses at the interface between our body and the environment.

Mr Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman A*STAR, said: "I am pleased that A*STAR's and RIKEN's longstanding partnership has catalysed many opportunities for collaboration in R&D between Singapore and Japan. We will continue to build on the complementary research capabilities of both countries through joint projects and scientific exchange. I look forward to many more fruitful years of collaboration."

Dr Hiroshi Matsumoto, President of RIKEN, said: "RIKEN's collaborations with Singapore through A*STAR have been extremely meaningful to us. A major mission of science today is to ensure the continued survival of humanity, and this mission cannot be accomplished without international co-operation. I strongly hope that our partnership will continue to develop, leading to important research breakthroughs that will benefit all of humanity."

spanaech@sph.com.sg

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