President’s award for outstanding scientists

26 September 2018 | Research
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Prof Swain (left) receiving the President’s Science  and Technology Medal at PSTA 2018 from Singapore President Madam Halimah Yacob (Photo: A*STAR)

Researchers from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) and Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) were honoured at the President’s Science and Technology Awards (PSTA) 2018 for their outstanding contributions to Singapore’s research and innovation landscape that have resulted in significant economic or social benefits for the nation. 

This year, Professor Judith Swain at NUS Medicine was conferred the President's Science and Technology Medal (PSTM), while Professor Stuart Cook from Duke-NUS received the President's Technology Award (PTA). Professor Tan Eng King and Associate Professor Lim Kah Leong, both from Duke-NUS, were part of a team that was presented with the President's Science Award (PSA). The researchers received their awards from President of the Republic of Singapore and NUS Chancellor Madam Halimah Yacob during a ceremony organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) on 25 September at Capella Singapore.

My passion, throughout my research career, has been to mentor young researchers, especially clinician investigators, and to foster research collaborations between institutions. My time at NUS has allowed me to do just that. I look forward to continue helping NUS develop the research leaders of the future, and the research programmes that bring global recognition to Singapore.

Prof Swain was conferred the PSTM in recognition of her pivotal role in raising Singapore’s international reputation in biomedical research through translational and clinical research. Prof Swain, who is also the Founding Executive Director of the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), has held key positions in research institutes, universities and hospitals spanning more than 15 years. 

Her many accomplishments include overseeing the inception of Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes, a nationwide study on pregnancy and early childhood development that has shifted Singapore’s public health policy with key findings on gestational diabetes and its impact on children. She also helped to develop the Singapore Centre for Nutritional Sciences, Metabolic Diseases, and Human Development, a collaboration between NUS, SICS and the National University Health System that catalysed the development of additional joint translational and clinical research programmes within these institutes. 

A champion of talent development for medical academics, Prof Swain who serves as advisor to NUS and the National Healthcare Group, helped formulate training programmes for A*STAR scholars, and was part of a group that formulated plans for translational and clinical talent development in Singapore. 

“My passion, throughout my research career, has been to mentor young researchers, especially clinician investigators, and to foster research collaborations between institutions. My time at NUS has allowed me to do just that. I look forward to continue helping NUS develop the research leaders of the future, and the research programmes that bring global recognition to Singapore,” said Prof Swain.

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Prof Cook received the President's Technology Award for his efforts in advancing research in human genetics and cardiovascular disease (Photo: A*STAR)

PTA recipient Prof Cook was recognised for his efforts in advancing research in human genetics and cardiovascular disease. Prof Cook, who is Director of the Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disorder Signature Research Programme at Duke-NUS, is a leading cardiovascular research expert, having done extensive work in human genetics, heart muscle disease and cardiac imaging. He heads a cross-disciplinary research team at Duke-NUS and the National Heart Research Institute to identify new genes and pathways for heart disease, for better therapeutic targets. In 2012, Prof Cook and his collaborators discovered that mutations in titin, the biggest human gene, cause heart muscle weakness in Caucasian populations. He went on to lead a genetic study in Singapore and has found that mutations in the same gene are responsible for up to a quarter of the cases in Singaporean-Asian populations. The discovery catalysed the development of a commercial next-generation test kit used by laboratories around the world to screen patients for various gene mutations linked to inherited heart conditions.

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Prof Tan (2nd from left) and Assoc Prof Lim (2nd from right) were part of a team that was presented with the President's Science Award (Photo: A*STAR)

Prof Tan, who is also from the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) and Assoc Prof Lim, who heads NUS Medicine’s Department of Physiology were jointly awarded the PSA, together with their colleagues from NNI and the Genome Institute of Singapore, for their outstanding efforts in identifying clinical biomarkers and developing novel models and therapeutics for advancing the understanding and management of Parkinson’s disease over the last five years. Their research has facilitated partnerships with industry, clinical and research institutions, leading to enhanced healthcare policies that support improved clinical care for patients with the disease in Singapore. 

This year represents the 10th anniversary of the PSTA, the nation’s highest scientific honours. Formerly known as the National Science and Technology Awards, the Awards were elevated to the status of the President’s Awards in 2009 to highlight and give due recognition to the important role research scientists and engineers play in Singapore’s economic and societal development. 

Read more on the award recipients.

See media coverage.