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  14 July 2014  
  Brian CHIA  

Group Leader, Medicinal Chemistry (Peptidomimetics)
Experimental Therapeutics Centre

2005 -2007 Group Leader of IMCB Peptide Research Lab under Sir David Lane

My passion lies in the field of bioactive and therapeutic peptides and their analogs, known as peptidomimetics, for use as medicines to treat diseases.

I became interested in organic chemistry during my A-levels way back in 1989. After a 2.5-year military service stint in an armored battalion, I set off to The University of Adelaide, Australia in 1993 to pursue a B.Sc., majoring in organic chemistry. In 1996, I was awarded an honors scholarship by the university and graduated with first class in organic chemistry a year later. This was also the time when I decided to pursue a scientific career in chemistry and biology although the biomedical R&D scene in Singapore was somewhat limited in the 90s.

In 1997, I applied for and was awarded a bond-free overseas postgraduate scholarship by the Australian government for a Ph.D. program in organic chemistry under Professor John Bowie at The University of Adelaide, focusing on peptide chemistry and antibacterials. This further fueled my passion for research and as some scientists profess, they don't see the work they do as work, but as a hobby. I graduated in 2000 and began looking for research opportunities outside Australia.

Fortuitously, I was awarded a BBSRC research fellowship in 2000 by the British government to study drug-receptor interactions at Cambridge University under Professor Dudley Williams with a focus on peptidomimetic antibiotics like vancomycin. Coincidently, the field of biomedical research began to take off in Singapore during this time.

In 2005, I was invited to set up and head the IMCB Peptide Research Group focusing on anti-cancer peptides by Sir David Lane, then Executive Director of IMCB, on the eighth floor of Proteos, Biopolis. Having been immersed in organic chemistry and biology of antibacterials in the past, my 2-year stint at IMCB was an eye-opening experience due to the highly complex and intricate world of cell and cancer biology. This re-shaped my views on how biologists unravel scientific information and how biological experiments were designed and conducted. At IMCB, I learned a great deal about cancer biology and mechanisms, including cancer drug discovery and development. I also thoroughly enjoyed lecturing in the IMCB graduate courses organized by Professor Uttam Surana for students from the local universities and RIs.

In 2007, Sir David Lane set up a new A*STAR entity called the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC), on the third floor of Nanos, Biopolis, with the primary goal of discovering and developing new drugs. With Sir David as the founding CEO, I joined ETC as Group Leader in Medicinal Chemistry (Peptidomimetics). As of 2014, I'm spearheading two research areas: (1) developing novel antivirals against enteroviruses, Chikungunya, Dengue, West Nile virus and (2) developing novel antibacterial agents with a focus on meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Do drop me an email if you're interested in my projects!



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