Anthony TING Ph.D
Vice President of Regenerative Medicine at Athersys, Inc.
PI at IMCB 1996 - 2001
"What have you got to lose?" challenged Sydney Brenner as he raised his eyebrows. It was 1994 at Stanford University and I was having dinner with Dr. Brenner, Chris Tan, and my father. In the US for a meeting, they had asked me to join them for a night out that ultimately ended in Chris Tan inviting me to work at IMCB. At the time, I was looking for academic positions in the US. Singapore was not on my radar but the challenge thrown down by Sydney and the chance to fly across the Pacific and visit IMCB was hard to turn down.
When I arrived at IMCB for my interview, I was immediately impressed by the scientific excellence and the excitement of the Principal Investigators, who themselves had come from top academic centers from across the globe. The labs were well-equipped and the post-docs and students engaged. What more could a scientist want?
I still remember my first day, when Omar picked me up and drove me to IMCB. He quickly took me to Chris Tan's office where the real work began. He brought me to Mrs. Hong Lan Tay who showed me my new lab bay and introduced me to my first lab member, Chia Jin Ngee. From there on, every few weeks, Chris Tan would introduce a new member to my lab until it grew quite large. All quite unexpected but well appreciated.
As a PI from 1996-2001, I was not only able to continue my research on the mechanisms underlying membrane vesicle trafficking but also was tasked with establishing a translational research program, the Screening for Novel Inhibitors Group. The ability to interact on a regular basis with other PIs to discuss their basic research and identify possible therapeutic drug targets was eye-opening. Working with wonderful colleagues including: Ed Manser, Uttam Surana, Uli Bernard, and Catherine Pallen, I was able to expand my knowledge-base and developed my love for drug discovery. While drug discovery was in its infancy back then for Singapore, it has since grown. In fact, Merlion Pharmaceuticals, Singapore's first home-grown pharmaceutical company, recently achieved a major milestone with the FDA approval of finafloxacin for Swimmers Ear.
Currently, I'm still utilizing all the discovery skills I acquired at IMCB. As the VP of Regenerative Medicine for Athersys, I'm involved in all aspects of R&D for our adult allogeneic bone-marrow derived stem cell product, MultiStem. I head the cardiopulmonary programs and am currently running two clinical trials using MultiStem to treat patients who have had a recent heart attack and another trial treating patients who have acute respiratory distress syndrome. While my nearly 15 years at Athersys in Cleveland have been incredibly productive, I still miss the scientific and philosophical discussions with IMCB colleagues, supervising and partying with my former lab members and working with Mrs. Tay and her staff. And, of course, I miss the great food to be found in the hawker stalls and East Coast seafood restaurants.