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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 11:19 GMT
Singapore hi-tech heaven opens

By Richard Black
BBC Science Correspondent

A novel science research centre was opened in Singapore on Wednesday.

Called 'Biopolis', it is a mixture of public-sector research institutes and private biomedical companies.

Biopolis scientific research centre in Singapore
Biopolis will eventually house over 2,000 scientists

It is aimed at establishing Singapore as a world centre in new scientific disciplines like genomics, stem cells and nanotechnology.

Biopolis is a high-tech glass and metal village in the heart of Singapore.

It cost $500m to build, and will eventually host more than 2,000 scientists in its seven gleaming buildings, which have been given exciting space-age names like Chromos, Helios and Proteos.

There's a very good talent base... and we envisage it being a world-class facility
Ian Gray
Research Director, Paradigm Therapeutics

A number of academic institutions and private companies have already moved in.

One is the UK-based Paradigm Therapeutics, whose Research Director is Ian Gray.

"There's a very good talent base, particularly in the molecular biology skills that we're looking for.

"It also gives us the opportunity to make links with local firms and also academic groups. The Biopolis is a mixture of both industrial and academic research units, and we envisage it being a world-class facility," he said.

Major pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis have also set up labs in Biopolis, and a number of leading western scientists have been recruited into key posts.

Edison Liu, formerly of the US National Cancer Institute, now heads up the Singapore Genome Institute, which took the lead in sequencing the Sars virus earlier this year.

Alan Colman, one of the creators of the world's first successfully cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, also moved to Singapore recently.

Sciences like bioengineering and genomics hold huge potential but few companies in these fields are profitable yet.

Biopolis represents the Singapore government's bet that substantial profits will eventually materialise, and make biotechnology as valuable an investment as infotech once was.

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