New friends. RIKEN President Ryoji Noyori (left) and A*STAR Chair Chin Tiong Tan signed the agreement to increase scientific cooperation.

Asian Agencies Join Hands

In another sign that Asia's researchers are strengthening ties within their region, Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) and Japan's RIKEN on 16 September agreed on a wide-ranging collaboration to exchange researchers, share research materials and information, and promote joint research efforts. Both RIKEN and A*STAR are publicly funded agencies overseeing networks of research institutes in many disciplines, which makes them good potential partners, says A*STAR Chair Philip Yeo. But the collaboration will focus primarily on biomedical sciences and biotechnology, he adds.

Japan has strong ties to North American and European research institutes, says RIKEN President Ryoji Noyori--thanks mainly to the many young Japanese researchers who spent time studying and working abroad. Those ties should remain close, he says, but given Asia's burgeoning research scene, "we need to expand cooperative efforts and relations with Asian nations." Singapore, too, has various collaborative ties to institutes in American and Europe, says Yeo, but "Japan is a major player in science. So to fulfill Singapore's aspiration [of becoming a an international research center], Singapore must link up with Japan as well."

Details of the agreement are still being worked out. But for a start, the collaboration will target three areas: analysis of transcription factors related to cancer in hopes of identifying drug targets, studies of environmental pathogens particularly relevant to Asia, and neuroscience.

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