3rd Quarter 2012 Newsletter

Researchers examining an improved Jatropha plant with customised traits

A Decade of Research and Innovation

Established in 2002, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) began with slightly over a hundred researchers, and was set up to undertake cutting edge research in molecular biology and genetics. Today, ten years on, with more than 225 researchers from over 20 countries, TLL has received international recognition for its work in various areas of research.

Besides engaging in fundamental research work to understand the underlying biological mechanisms which sustain life, TLL also focuses on harnessing scientific research in the development of practical solutions, in the pursuit of real world research excellence. "Real world research excellence means research that sustains economic growth, works with and builds industries that solve global problems." says TLL Executive Director Professor Chan Soh Ha.

To this end, TLL commercialises their research where possible, through the establishment of spin-off companies. One example is JOil, a biofuel company set up by TLL, Tata Chemicals and other investors. Researchers at TLL had developed the technology to generate Jatropha planting materials with customized traits, enabling plantations to secure ample supply of biofuel feedstock without increasing its carbon footprint. The research caught the eye of Tata Chemicals, which chose JOil to be the exclusive partner for its Indian and East African biodiesel business. Today, JOil has operations in 7 countries.

From developing novel technologies to combat diseases to developing crops that can thrive in specific conditions, TLL continues to promote research which has a practical impact on various industries. "We will continue to work on such impactful research that enhances the way we live and is relevant to real world needs." says Professor Chan.

Biorisk Professor van Loosdrecht receiving the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean

An Energy-Saving Approach to Water Treatment

In 1999, scientists discovered a unique bacterium which possesses enzymes, enabling it to convert ammonia into harmless nitrogen gas. This discovery sparked the interest of Professor Mark van Loosdrecht from Delft University of Technology, who embarked on a project to develop tools which would enable scientists to harness the natural properties of the bacteria in the purification of waste water.

The result is Anammox, an energy-saving process which shortens the conventional used water treatment method.

Traditionally, ammonia in waste water needs to be converted into an intermediate nitrate form before it is converted into nitrogen gas. This method is energy-intensive and can take up to 3% of a country's energy budget.

The application the Annamox technology will greatly reduce the overall energy consumption, chemical usage and carbon emissions of conventional used water treatment plants.

Professor van Loosdrecht's ground-breaking work won him the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, which is sponsored by the Singapore Millenium Foundation. The prize, which received 61 nominations this year, honours the outstanding contributions by individuals of organisations in solving water-related problems, or implementing policies and programmes which benefit humanity.

Samantha (centre) and fellow camp participants reading the brain book

Encouraging Research among Young Minds

From 10 to 15 June 2012, 150 youths from the ASEAN countries, India and China and South Korea convened in Singapore for the inaugural STEP-NUS Sunburst Brain Camp. Organised by the Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme (STEP) and the National University of Singapore (NUS), the camp gave youths the opportunity to interact with like-minded peers as well as professors from the NUS.

Through interactive talks and hands-on workshops, students aged 16 to 18 were acquainted with current research methods, such as Electroencephalography (EEG) and the use of the C. Elegans, a worm, in laboratory experiments.

The camp also marked the launch of the Brain Book, which describes how the brain works and how its dysfunction can lead to neurological diseases. Targeted at high school students, the book was co-written by students from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science.

Samantha Yong, a camp participant and aspiring clinical researcher, worked with her sister on a chapter of the Brain Book. "I chose to write the chapter on the Brain Bank because I did not know much about it. After researching more about the topic, we realised the importance of a brain bank in advancing research on the brain."

HDB experts sharing the Singapore experience with Asian city leaders

Better City Planning for Urban Asia

With rapid urbanization and a fast-growing population, Asian city leaders increasingly face the challenge of developing their cities in a sustainable manner while providing the infrastructure to meet new demands.

Recognising the importance of sound urban management and development strategies, Temasek Foundation and the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) organised the inaugural Temasek Foundation Leaders in Urban Governance programme. The first run of the programme, held from 26 to 30 June 2012, gave 33 city leaders from China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam the opportunity to address common urban challenges such as the water management and the provision of homes.

Through panel discussions, site visits and interactions with local experts from agencies such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Housing & Development Board (HDB), and National Parks Board (NParks), participants were exposed to comprehensive and multi-pronged urban management approaches.

As part of the programme, each city team also developed an action plan for their own cities with the help of mentors and urban pioneers. CLC will support the teams for a year as they bring their plans into frution.

The second round of the programme will be held in 2013.


  • 17 Jul - Myanmar looks to Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Foundation to develop its skills development framework [more]
  • 12 Jun - Singapore’s first-ever brain book by youth, for youth [more]
  • 22 May - TLL scientist receives prestigious Beadle and Tatum award 2012 [more]

Click here to view all media releases.