Seen and heard this week


Seen and heard this week is a weekly column highlighting thought leadership from the NUS community


A test kit developed by an NUS team led by Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine Associate Professor Justin Chu that can easily and effectively identify hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in children using only saliva was featured in a Channel NewsAsia article on 21 August. This kit uses salivary microRNA as a diagnostic marker for the HFMD virus and can potentially identify the virus before symptoms such as fever or mouth ulcers develop. Tested on 82 children, the accuracy rate of Singaporean HFMD cases identified was 90 per cent. The team hopes to test the kits on larger groups of children. Their main aim is for the kit to be used on a daily basis in childcare centres to enhance the pick-up rate of HFMD and break the transmission chain of the virus, said Assoc Prof Chu.

In a commentary in The Business Times on 21 August NUS Business Associate Professor Toh Mun Heng spoke about the use of technology in improving the productivity of SMEs in retail and food and beverage sectors. Assoc Prof Toh said that a good framework is necessary to effectively analyse problems faced in business operations and productivity improvement. Looking at the various stakeholders involved in the improvement process — such as customers, business owners and employees — he observed that most have recognised the need to implement the technological tools and that they have something to gain from it, but that challenges including lack of awareness, hiring a committed workforce, lack of feasible economies of scale and technology anxiety still exist.

Distinguished Visiting Professor Asit Biswas and Senior Research Fellow Dr Cecilia Tortajada, both from the Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, penned a commentary in The Business Times on 22 August discussing China President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Initiative hopes to build and strengthen physical infrastructure — such as railways, high-speed trains, highways and ports — along several routes, connecting at least 65 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa, the writers explained. While many still see this initiative as a geopolitical strategy to enhance China’s global standing, the writers believe that the BRI is in fact a global development effort that can benefit all countries along the routes in areas such as employment, poverty alleviation and improvement in living standards.

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