Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Welcomes Its First 9-Year-Old "Scientist"  
12/11/2012 11:21:35 AM

December 11, 2012 – Today, the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) partnered with Make-A-Wish Foundation® Singapore (MAW) to make a young girl’s dream come true.

Meenakshi Sundaram Losheni has had chronic renal disease since young. But the gutsy 9-year-old with a bubbly personality bravely endures her dialysis sessions and takes her medication without complaints. An avid reader, Losheni has an inquisitive mind and is curious about how things work. Little wonder then, that her favorite subject in school is science.

For a few hours today, Losheni became the youngest ever ‘scientist’ at Biopolis when she received the rare opportunity to don on a lab coat and work alongside scientists in a state-of-the-art research facility. Under the close supervision of Dr Andrew Wan, IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist, and Dr Meng Fatt Leong, IBN Research Scientist, Losheni studied the properties of liver, bone, kidney and stem cells that had been grown in IBN’s fibrous scaffolds to determine their usefulness for tissue engineering applications. With help from the IBN researchers, she even presented her findings to Dr Wan’s research team.

Today’s wish-granting event was organized as part of IBN’s Charity Month 2012. Other volunteer activities organized by IBN this year are visits to the pediatric ward at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in December 2012 and January 2013, as well as an animal adoption drive at Biopolis on December 20 and 21, 2012 on behalf of the Animal Lovers League.

Prof Jackie Y. Ying, IBN Executive Director, added, “Our researchers are developing next-generation technologies for organ replacement and regenerative medicine, and volunteer opportunities such as this inspire them by putting a face to the biomedical problems that they are working on. We wish Losheni and her family all the best for the future, and hope that she will continue to pursue her interest in science.”

Ms Noreena AbuBakar, IBN Director and Chair of IBN’s Youth Research Program, shared, “It was our pleasure to help grant Losheni’s wish today. IBN is strongly committed toward nurturing future scientific talents, and we hope that Losheni’s story will inspire more young girls and boys to pursue their own scientific dreams.”

Mr Paul Heng, one of the volunteer wish granters, and also Board Chair of MAW, said, “This is going to be one of my more memorable wish grantings ever. The magic of becoming a scientist for one day will truly be a memorable one for Losheni. More importantly, we believe that the experience will prepare her well, emotionally and psychologically, for her organ transplant operation set for December 26, 2012. It will also provide Losheni the hope, joy and strength to be even more prepared for the future.”

IBN’s Charity Month is an annual event, which started in 2010 as an Institute-wide initiative to give back to society and help the less fortunate. Through this platform, IBN has organized activities such as fundraising, donation drives, visits and outings for the beneficiaries of various charities that include Child @ Street 11, Melrose Home, Beyond Social Services, The Tent, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Food from the Heart, Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home, Cat Welfare Society, and Pertapis Children’s Home. By fostering employee well-being and team spirit, IBN’s Charity Month is one of the key components of the Institute’s platinum award-winning Workplace Health Promotion program.

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About the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) was established in 2003 and is spearheaded by its Executive Director, Professor Jackie Yi-Ru Ying.

Professor Ying was a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1992 - 2005). She was recognized as one of “One Hundred Engineers of the Modern Era” by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2008 for her groundbreaking work on nanostructured systems, nanoporous materials and host matrices for quantum dots and wires.

Under her direction, IBN conducts research at the cutting-edge of bioengineering and nanotechnology. Its programs are geared towards linking multiple disciplines across engineering, science and medicine to produce research breakthroughs that will improve healthcare and our quality of life.

IBN’s research activities are focused in the following areas:

Drug and Gene Delivery, where the controlled release of therapeutics involves the use of functionalized polymers, hydrogels and biologics for targeting diseased cells and organs, and for responding to specific biological stimuli.

Cell and Tissue Engineering, where biomimicking materials, stem cell technology, microfluidic systems and bioimaging tools are combined to develop novel approaches to regenerative medicine and artificial organs.

Biodevices and Diagnostics, which involve nanotechnology and microfabricated platforms for high-throughput biomarker and drug screening, automated biologics synthesis, and rapid disease diagnosis.

Pharmaceuticals Synthesis and Green Chemistry, which encompass the efficient catalytic synthesis of chiral pharmaceuticals, and new nanocomposite materials for sustainable technology and alternative energy generation.

IBN's innovative research is aimed at creating new knowledge and intellectual properties in the emerging fields of bioengineering and nanotechnology to attract top-notch researchers and business partners to Singapore. Since 2003, IBN researchers have published over 796 papers in leading journals.

IBN also plays an active role in technology transfer and spinning off companies, linking the research institute and industrial partners to other global institutions. The Institute has a portfolio of over 502 patents/patent applications on its inventions, and welcomes industrial and clinical partners to collaborate on and co-develop its technologies. IBN has successfully commercialized 33 patents/patent applications, and has established 6 spin-off companies.

IBN's current staff and students strength stands at over 150 scientists, engineers and medical doctors. With its multinational and multidisciplinary research staff, the institute is geared towards generating new biomaterials, devices, systems and processes to boost Singapore’s economy in the medical technology, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, consumer products and clean technology sectors.

IBN is also committed to nurturing young talents. Besides the training of PhD students, IBN has a Youth Research Program (YRP) for students and teachers from secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, and universities. Since its inception in October 2003, IBN’s YRP has reached out to more than 59,000 students and teachers from 288 local and overseas schools and institutions. Over 1,650 students and teachers have completed research attachments at IBN for a minimum period of four weeks.

About Make-A-Wish Foundation®

Make-A-Wish Foundation® Singapore grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Since its inception in2003, it has granted over 833 wishes. The goal of the Foundation is to reach every medically eligible child and bring them renewed strength to battle their illnesses. Make-A-Wish Foundation® Singapore is an affiliate of Make-A-Wish Foundation® International. Founded in 1980 inPhoenix, Arizona, Make-A-Wish Foundation® is now present in more than 48 countries, and across the world grants one wish, 30 minutes of every day, 365 days a year. Wish granting has a life-changing experience on wish children and their families and the impact reaches far and wide, bringing together donors, sponsors, volunteers and entire communities.