A*STAR Outstanding Publications Award 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013
A*STAR Patent Power Award 2009 and 2010
Singapore HEALTH Award (Platinum) 2012, (Gold) 2008 and 2010
IBN Scientist Receives ‘Inspiring Research Mentor Award’ from NUS High School
From left: IBN Research Scientist Shona Pek with her YRP students Ong Ze Xuan and Ng Chong Yi from NUS High School.
IBN Research Scientist Shona Pek received the ‘Inspiring Research Mentor Award’ from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science (NUS High School) on February 26, 2014 at the NUS High School Research Congress.
This award recognizes Shona’s efforts in mentoring 18-year-old Ong Ze Xuan from NUS High School who participated in IBN’s Youth Research Program. Shona mentored Ze Xuan for 5 months last year on a project to deliver a hair loss drug using an injectable sustained delivery system. Ze Xuan was inspired and motivated by Shona’s guidance during his research attachment at IBN, and had nominated her for this award as a mentor who has made a difference to him.
Shona said, “It is a great honor to receive this award. I am now encouraged to put in even more effort into being a good mentor to my students so that they can have a meaningful and positive research experience.” Shona has mentored 48 YRP students, which includes 3 students from NUS High School.
“My mentor Shona has made a significant impact to my research attachment experience at IBN, and shown me what it is like to be a researcher. When I first joined IBN, the lab was a very unfamiliar place. Shona patiently taught me how to use most of the equipment in the lab, even those that were not required for our experiments, just so that I can have a better lab experience and learn more of the latest scientific knowledge. Beyond my own project, she also let me take part in some of her other projects to gain more experience. Despite my inexperience, she always encouraged me to find solutions to problems I encounter during research. This research attachment has given me greater insights into research and made me more independent. I am grateful to Shona for her mentorship, and for inspiring me to consider a research career in the future,” shared Ze Xuan.
Pushing Back Against Drug-Resistant Bugs
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may have met their match in polymers that render them vulnerable once again
The Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium is a common cause of opportunistic infections in humans and has a tendency to acquire resistance to a number of standard antibiotics. Image courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Janice Haney Carr
January 22, 2014 – Some pathogens can adapt to the presence of drugs that would normally be lethal, and such antibiotic-resistant microbes are now the scourge of hospitals worldwide. Discovering new antibiotics is a laborious process, but research from a team led by Dr Yi Yan Yang of the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore, and Dr James Hedrick of the IBM Almaden Research Center, United States, could breathe new life into existing drugs.
One of the standard escape mechanisms employed by bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa (see image) entails increased production of proteins that purge or break down drug molecules. Polymers that stick to and disrupt bacterial membranes offer an alternative means for killing resistant cells. However, at elevated concentrations these polymers can also inflict damage on bystander host cells. Yang and Hedrick’s team explored whether a combination of polymers and antibiotics might offer a safer alternative that draws on the strengths of both approaches.
Heavy Metals Meet their Match
In just seconds, a low-cost porous organic polymer can cut toxic metal concentrations in water to inconsequential levels
Corroded plumbing systems can introduce heavy metal contaminants to drinking water, but a novel polymer sorbent can now remove such impurities within seconds. Image courtesy of Dave Gostisha at SXC.hu.
January 15, 2014 – Aquifers, lakes, and rivers that supply drinking water rarely contain metal contaminants. When water passes through service lines and home plumbing systems, however, corrosion can introduce small amounts of lead, cadmium and other heavy metals that are toxic to human health. Recently, the World Health Organization lowered the recommended lead concentrations in drinking water to 10 parts per billion (ppb) to help prevent accidental poisoning.
Reaching such low lead concentration levels typically requires time-consuming precipitation reactions or expensive reverse osmosis systems that also remove essential minerals, such as calcium, from drinking water. A team led by Dr Yugen Zhang and Prof Jackie Y. Ying from the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology has now developed a technology that greatly improves purification efforts. They used a porous polymer that selectively binds to lead and other heavy metals in flowing water.
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