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Prestigious A*STAR Investigatorship award attracts outstanding young scientists to carry out independent research at A*STAR Research Institutes
12, Feb 2008

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French investigator lands the inaugural award to lead human embryology research at A*STAR's Institute of Medical Biology

Dynamic. Innovative. Internationally competitive. These are apt descriptions for the winners of the A*STAR Investigatorship or A*I, a scheme designed to attract the best and the most promising young researchers from around the world to do independent research at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Launched by A*STAR, A*I was initiated as a platform to support and promote the independent early career development of the next generation of world leaders in scientific research in biomedical sciences, physical sciences and engineering research.

Modelled after the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigatorship award that is well-known for selecting the very best of the scientific community in the United States, the A*I sets out to nurture the next generation of scientific leaders by offering the opportunity for high potential individuals to conduct independent and impactful research at A*STAR's research institutes, with funding support for set-up costs and research staff, and access to state of the art scientific equipment and facilities.

To be eligible for consideration, A*I candidates would need to have obtained their PhD within 2 to 4 years of applying, and have excellent credentials.  Successful candidates will be appointed for a three-year period with provision for a further three-year appointment upon favourable review at the end of the first three years. Each A*STAR Investigator's lab will be funded up to US$500,000 a year.

A*I is a highly-focused endeavour, designed to recruit the best young researchers in strategic areas of scientific focus. The inaugural call was launched by A*STAR's Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) in 2006 and was open to investigators who have expertise in areas of molecular and cell biology. The second grant call was launched in 2007, and in addition to molecular and cell biology, the scope was expanded to include genetics and genomics research relevant to human health and disease. These areas were carefully selected for their potential for developing translational and clinical applications for the treatment and prevention of disease, paralleling the focus of Phase 2 of Singapore's Biomedical Sciences (BMS) initiative.

The A*I selection panel for the Biomedical Sciences was chaired by Dr Tadataka Yamada, President of Global Health Programme at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, former Chairman of Research and Development of GlaxoSmithKline, and A*STAR Board member. 

Dr Yamada was instrumental in the conceptualisation of the A*I award. With his vast knowledge and expertise in research and development in the pharmaceutical industry, he led a team of eminent scientists (see Annex A) to pick the best candidates for the prestigious A*I award, benchmarking them against the highest international standards.

Dr Yamada said, "I am very heartened and deeply impressed by the quality and depth of talent displayed by the young individuals who have responded to the A*I calls. These young people have the promise and potential to be among the best scientists of the next generation. Their ability to compete internationally is evidenced by the offers that these young people are also receiving from world-class institutions in the US and Europe. The fact that some of the best have chosen to come to Singapore and to invest the prime years of their scientific careers with A*STAR speaks volumes for the attractiveness of the research opportunities at the Biopolis. I commend A*STAR for its far-sighted efforts to help shape and nurture the scientific leaders of tomorrow."

Dr Bruno Reversade, A*I recipient from inaugural call

Dr Bruno Reversade, a developmental biologist and the first A*I recipient started his appointment as Principal Investigator at the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) last month. For more than 10 years, Dr Reversade has been studying embryogenesis. He has published 14 papers in prestigious journals such as Cell and Nature Cell Biology, several of which are landmark discoveries explaining how embryonic twins can be seamlessly produced from a single fertilized egg. His current research suggests that the birth of natural human clones or identical twins could well be genetically triggered.

A French national, Dr Reversade, 33, formerly working at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), obtained his PhD in 2006 from the University Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris under the tutelage of Howard Hughes Investigator, Professor Edward De Robertis, at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr Reversade is also the recipient of a prestigious award from the Branco Weiss Foundation based in Switzerland.

At IMB, Dr Reversade will lead a team of researchers and further his study on human identical twins hoping to characterise a gene or elucidate a molecular pathway which directs the phenomenon of natural monoclonal offspring in the human species.

Dr Reversade said, "Why did I choose A*I over similar positions in the States & Europe? Because only at A*STAR is the temperature as hot as the action. "

2008 Call

Application for the 2008 A*I awards for both BMRC and SERC is now open and the deadline is 31 May 2008.  Key areas selected for BMRC are imaging, protein structure and function, protein engineering and bioinformatics, and key areas selected for SERC are cognitive systems including robots, meta-materials, terahertz, clean energy technologies, and service science focusing on computational approaches and computer systems to improve service efficiency and catalyse service innovation.


For media enquires, please contact:

Alice Khong
Corporate Communications Department
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
DID: +65 68266182


Notes to the Editor:

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, is Singapore's lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based Singapore.  
A*STAR actively nurtures public sector research and development in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, with a particular focus on fields essential to Singapore's manufacturing industry and new growth industries.  It oversees 14 research institutes and supports extramural research with the universities, hospital research centres and other local and international partners. At the heart of this knowledge intensive work is human capital.  Top local and international scientific talent drive knowledge creation at A*STAR research institutes.  The Agency also sends scholars for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training in the best universities, a reflection of the high priority A*STAR places on nurturing the next generation of scientific talent.
About the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB)

The newest of A*STAR's institutes, and the seventh in biomedical sciences, is the Institute of Medical Biology. IMB started operating in April 2007, building on research programmes from the Centre for Molecular Medicine and laboratories of the Singapore Stem Cell Consortium. Headed by Professor Birgitte Lane, the IMB supports research on stem cells, development and differentiation, cancer and genetic diseases. IMB is building a world-class research portfolio at the interface between basic science & clinical medicine. The Institute will be drawing top researchers from around the world to Singapore to work in its purpose-built laboratories in Biopolis. IMB scientists will develop research projects with clinical collaborators, which it is hoped will lead to development of new strategies for diagnosis and treatment of human illness - ultimately contributing towards a better quality of life.


Annex A

A*STAR Investigatorship Selection Panel

Biomedical Sciences

Professor Tadataka Yamada
President, Global Health Program
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Professor Sir David Lane
Biomedical Research Council
Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore;
Chief Scientist
Cancer Research UK

Professor Edward Holmes
Executive Deputy Chairman, Translational and Clinical Sciences
Biomedical Research Council
Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore;
Executive Chairman
National Medical Research Council, Singapore

Professor Alex Matter
Novartis Institute for Tropical Disease

Annex B

About Dr Bruno Reversade

After completing his Masters' degree at the Pasteur Institute where he studied embryonic head formation, Dr Bruno Reversade obtained his PhD in 2006 from the University Pierre & Marie Curie in Paris. While working with the HHMI in the laboratory of Professor E. De Robertis at UCLA, he investigated the role of secreted proteins in embryonic patterning and published landmark papers that provide an explanation for how embryonic twins can be seamlessly produced from a single fertilized egg.

Dr Reversade's current research deals with uncommon human pedigrees which suggest that the birth of natural human clones can be genetically-triggered. His work is therefore engaged on sound theoretical groundings and is supported by the Branco Weiss Foundation, whose mission is to bridge Science and Society.

Dr Reversade was awarded the prestigious, first A*Star Research Fellowship. He has joined the IMB in Singapore as Principal Investigator in January 2008.