“The Future of the Biomedical Sector in Singapore: Trends, Talent and Technology” – this was the topic of the panel discussion, organized by Murdoch University, in conjunction with the Singapore Centre for Research in Innovation, Productivity and Technology (SCRIPT). The keynote lecture was delivered by Dr. Chris Smith who gave his perspective on the important things and challenges facing the world.
Dr. Chris Smith is a consultant medical microbiologist based at Cambridge University and also a consultant clinical virologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital where he teaches medical, veterinary and natural sciences in infectious diseases and virology. As the creator of ‘The Naked Scientist’, a science and medicine radio show, podcast and website, Dr. Chris Smith added:
‘We can see what’s coming up in relevant journals up to 6 weeks ahead and every week, we scrutinize those journals and ask what do we think is important, what do we think people would love to know about…it’s very important to draw the right conclusions from Science so we always read these papers that were put up very carefully.’
He pointed out the concerns of increasing population density translating to greater population dynamics, bringing up concerns over the already limited resources as well as incubation periods of major infectious illnesses exceeding flight durations, resulting in greater ease of spreading. With increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, consequences of climate change were also discussed. Challenges faced by an aging population were briefly touched on, with concerns such as the shift in healthcare focus and an increasing financial burden on societies.
Dr. Chris Smith then carried on to provide several interesting insights on biomedical breakthroughs, and they were as follows:
- Growing a new kidney in a dish through the use of IPS (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells) which could potentially be the future of personalized medicine.
- Discovery of genes that turn fibroblasts (scar-forming tissue) in the heart, due to blocked blood vessels, back into functioning muscle cells.
- Growing special retina pigment epithelium patches that can be inserted into patients’ retina to restore sight in those suffering from severe macular degeneration.
- iKnife – an intelligent scalpel that is able to distinguish between healthy or cancerous tissue it is cutting through.
- Big data – more effective communication and sharing of information of a large pool of patients.
Although these challenges may seem impossible to tackle in the short run, it may not be all doom and gloom. In his closing statements, Dr. Chris Smith concluded: ‘there are some very bright people doing some exciting work at the same time, which is going to help us solve a lot of those problems and probably there has never been a better time to get ill.’