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UPDATE: Liu to Head Singapore s Fast-Growing Genomics Program

This story has been updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, Jan 31 – Edison Liu is leaving his postion as the director of the division of clinical sciences at the National Cancer Institute to head Singapore's young, but growing, genomics program.

Singapore’s nine-month-old genomics program is designed to bring together scientists and informaticians from a variety of disciplines and universities in an effort to help strengthen its biomedical sector, which the government hopes to turn into one of its leading industries along with electronics, chemicals, and engineering.

" Over the last 14 years, they made a study of where Singapore should go and they made a decision that life sciences is where it's at," said Liu. " Over the last 10 years, they've slowly, but confidently, been making moves."

In order to grow the fledgling industry into a pillar of its economy, Singapore has said it would invest some $4 billion in biomedical research over the next four to five years.

Liu said he would use some of his budget to recruit scientists from around the world to work for the genomics program in Singapore, which is already home to branches of leading pharmaceutical companies such as Glaxo Smithkline, Merck, Pfizer, and Schering Plough. Liu is planning to ramp up the genomics staff to about 200 -250, compared with just five employees today.

He said that he would focus the country's burgeoning genomics efforts on molecular epidemiology, pharmacogenomics, comparative genomics, and cell biology and that he would look to commercialize any findings and to partner with local companies and institutes.

The three organism's he is planning to concentrate on are humna, rodent, and zebrafish.

" I want to take advantage of the vibrant zebrafish community in Singapore," Liu said. 

Liu is also hoping to take advantage of the ethnic diversity that exists among the country's population of 3.8 million people. He noted that there are large numbers of Chinese, South Indian, and Malay inhabitants on the island.

" Heterogeneity is where the possibilities are," he said.

He added that some of that money Singapore has allocated for biomedical research has been earmarked to create a database of Asian genomic information, which will be used by researchers to focus on diseases prevalent in the region.

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