Archive for April 8th, 2008

Menengok Singapura …

Mari kita mengukur kemampuan bangsa ini dengan Singapura … semoga para Bupati, Gubernur, Camat dan Lurah dapat segera tobat …

Woi … bangun”2X !!!!!!

Presentasi Seorang Mahasiswa Doktor di NUS:


Drs Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins – From mouse to man

–> Date: 1 Feb 2007

In March 2006, internationally-renowned cancer geneticists, Drs Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins joined the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), to co-head the Cancer Genetics Laboratory. The husband-wife team has spent the past 2 decades using mouse models to study human diseases and problems, such as cancer, immunity, fertility, learning and memory. Biomed Singapore met up with these imminent scientists, to find out how their first year in Singapore has been.

With established careers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US and offers from Stanford University, why did you decide to come to Singapore?

Dr Jenkins: In Singapore, there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. The resources made available for scientific efforts are excellent. So not only is it fiscally easier to do research here, but the spirit is also better, as everyone is upbeat. In the United States, the policies and funding are not as attractive, and this made us look elsewhere.

Dr Copeland: In addition, there are excellent mouse facilities here, and of course this was important to us, because we have a lot of mice. The Biopolis shared facilities have high health standards and our mice are in the process of getting “cleaned up”, so that they can come here. The first batch of mice arrived here last week.

Dr Jenkins: Although we officially joined IMCB in March 2006, we did not move to Singapore permanently until September 2006. This is because it takes time to move the lab, some of the people and mice here. We are now settling down here, and we absolutely love it. There are a lot of facets that need to be in place to allow research to progress, and Singapore has them all – the infrastructure is excellent, the work ethics here are high at all levels and there has been terrific support. You cannot ask for more!

Explain more about the research that you are involved in.

Dr Copeland: We are mouse cancer geneticists, and everything we do revolves around the mouse, as a model for human diseases. We have developed a new technology, which we call “Sleeping Beauty”, that we believe will allow us to induce many kinds of human cancers in mice. These mouse models are constructed in a way that makes it possible to identify the genes that are mutated. The models allow us to better understand the different causes of cancers. It is estimated that there are some 200 different cancers, which may be caused by the same or different mutations.

Dr Jenkins: We need to remember that even though cancer is seen as one disease, it is really hundreds of different diseases. It is not so simple.

Dr Copeland: We would like to translate what we do in mice into new treatments for humans. We need know which genes get mutated, so ideally, new drugs can be developed that target these genes. Since mice and human cancers are similar, we aim to use the mice to identify the genes.

Dr Jenkins: If we can find the genes and figure out how they operate and the different paths that they operate in, we can look along these paths and see if there is a good target. We are looking for something in the pathway that goes awry in cancer, so that we can then figure out how to block this or change it. The nicest feature of “Sleeping Beauty” is that we can select the kind of tumours that share histological features in common with humans and then go after the genes.

Dr Copeland: Cancer is heterogeneous, and one person’s cancer may not be the same as another’s, and may react differently to different drugs. This is because cancer is caused by mutations in many genes that work in cooperation with each other – not just one mutant gene. I believe that sometime in the near future, we will know all the cancer genes. We will then be able to sequence every gene in the cancer cells and figure out which ones are mutated. Based on this information, you will know the cause of the cancer and be able to select a combination of drugs that are specifically tailored to treat that cancer.

Dr Jenkins: Obviously this is still some way down the road, but this is the goal of our research.

What are your plans for the Cancer Genetics Laboratory?

Dr Copeland: In a nutshell, we aim to exploit the technology that we developed and take it to the next level – finding ways to translate it into humans. We hope to have our models up and running within the next 2-3 years. Our lab at IMCB is just about set up, we have 10 people now and 2 more are coming soon. We do not want to grow the lab too quickly, so we are being selective.

Dr Jenkins – And this is to ensure that we create a lab that is just the right place. People here need to really want to do animal models of disease. We want to grow slowly, to ensure that everyone gets good training, good experience and good publications. Training is very important to us. It is the one thing that we are the most proud of after being in science for 25 years. We have trained some remarkable, now not-so-young scientists!

What interesting developments do you foresee happening in your area, within the next few years?

Dr Copeland: I believe that in the not too distant future, scientists will be able to sequence everybody. Then, based on these sequences, we will know who has a greater likelihood of developing particular diseases. This will bring up a whole lot of ethical implications.

Dr Jenkins: As science moves forward so quickly, it is important that the ethical implications of the work moves forward too. Technology moves so fast. When we first started out as independent scientists, we never dreamed that we could sequence a mouse or human genome in our lifetimes, let alone in a timeframe where it could be applied to new treatments. So never underestimate the field. It will move faster than you can imagine, in ways that you cannot imagine.

Dr Copeland: I also believe that there will be developments in the field of diagnostics, where people can be diagnosed earlier, resulting in reduction of costs in treatment, better outcomes and more lives being saved.

What more do you think Singapore can do, in its effort to establish itself as a biomed hub?

Dr Jenkins: The single biggest thing that Singapore is doing is putting a huge emphasis in training. People are Singapore’s number one natural resource, so fine tuning skills, encouraging them to come home and creating good jobs is critical. This cannot be done overnight, but all the right elements are in place – strengthening the Universities, bringing in the clinician scientists, encouraging biotech start ups?

Dr Copeland: They have also started the translational initiative here and everything seems to be moving forward. The new Experimental Therapeutics Centre, which will be run by David Lane sounds promising, as it will bridge basic science and potential applications.

Dr Jenkins: There is an excellent climate here – we are seeing growth in the facilities, growth in the scientific capabilities and growth in the people. It is only a matter of time until we will see the fruition of these efforts.


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