Regional News Bytes, 12 April 2002

  Boost to Biomedicine

  Drug Discovery's New Arrival

Eminent Biotech Personality Joins Singapore's First Drug-Discovery Venture

S*BIO Pte Ltd., Singapore's first fully integrated genomics and small molecule-based drug-discovery venture, announced 10 April that it had appointed Stephen Runnels, an eminent biotech personality, as its chief executive officer.

Runnels has more than 25 years of corporate management, business development, and marketing experience in companies large and small in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. These include key roles in companies such as ProChon Biotech, NeoTherapeutics, Sigma-Aldrich, Irvine Scientific, and Gamma Biologicals. In his new capacity, Runnels will oversee the operation of S*BIO to make it a key player in Singapore's growing biomedical industry.

Commenting on his appointment, Philip Yeo, chair of the S*BIO board of directors, said, "[Runnels's] appointment will be a great asset not only to S*BIO but also Singapore's biomedical sciences cluster. With his international experience and S*BIO's team of talented scientists, we look forward to S*BIO making a global impact."

Having worked in the United States, Europe, and Asia, Runnels has established an extensive worldwide network in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, as well as in the financial community.

"This is a very exciting time for everyone at S*BIO," said Runnels. "[We have] worked hard to build up our own capabilities and to develop a fully integrated approach to drug-discovery research. From our research efforts, S*BIO aims to create novel technologies and therapeutics for unmet medical needs."

S*BIO, established in June 2000, has built up a core team of experienced and skilled scientists. It has been training its staff at Chiron Corp.'s facility in the San Francisco Bay area. As of 25 March 2002, S*BIO had 42 employees, but the company is still actively recruiting scientists to fill positions at various levels

A SG$62.6 Million Boost to Biomedical Research in Singapore

Singapore's burgeoning biomedical sciences industry received a boost earlier this week when the government's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR, a sponsor of Next Wave Singapore) and its Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) announced on Monday that they were awarding SG$62.6 million (US$34 million) in grants to researchers in the local public research sector, which comprises universities, hospitals, and specialty centres.

In its first-ever grant-awarding exercise, BMRC gave a total of 55 grants to support research in areas as diverse as pharmacogenomics, tissue engineering, structural biology, gene therapy, stem cell research, neuroscience, and cancer biology and therapeutics. A total of about 150 new positions are being created through this funding. The funding is part of the Singapore government's goal to promote and encourage good research in the biomedical sciences and to strengthen Singapore's position as a centre for such research.

"Given that biomedical science is a knowledge-intensive industry, we need to create opportunities for biomedical research to attract and create a critical mass of highly skilled research expertise in Singapore," said Philip Yeo, chair of A*STAR.

According to Louis Lim, executive director of BMRC, "The research grants are awarded to scientific investigators who not only have a proven track record in their research work but have also clearly demonstrated sound and innovative scientific ideas, which promise to yield many potential benefits in their research proposals."

Some of the winning proposals involve collaborators from renowned public research institutions overseas, such as Stanford University, Duke University, and the University of Melbourne.

The amount of funds allocated for the research grants ranged from approximately SG$0.5 million for a 3-year project grant to SG$2 million per year for a 5-year core competence grant, which may comprise a number of research components.

BMRC is calling for new proposals for the next round of awards. The closing date for submission is 6 May 2002. More information can be obtained from the BMRC's Web site.

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