Directors - Past & Present  

Chris Y H Tan (Director 1987-2001)

Chris Y H Tan (Y H Tan). After his BSc-Hons at the University of Singapore, Singapore-born Tan obtained a PhD (Biochemistry @ University of Manitoba) discovering a new broad-spectrum hyaluronidase which is rapidly secreted into dog saliva on sympathetic-nerve stimulation (1969). He discovered interferon (IFN)-gene superinduction at the University of Pittsburgh (1970) making sufficient of the then scarce human β-IFN/mRNA for the first: purification/chemical identification of human interferon, anti-cancer trials (NIH/University of Calgary/Cross Cancer Center 1978-80), and cloning (1980) in the development of an Anti-MS Drug (Betaseron) by Triton Biosciences/Cetus. He mapped the genes for interferon action and SOD-1 to human chromosome-21 at Yale University (1973-75) demonstrating gene dosage and inter-chromosomal regulation in human cells. The putative IFN-action gene-products were subsequently identified as Mx1, Mx2 anti-viral proteins, IFN-signalling factors, receptors, and inducible cell-adhesion proteins. He co-established the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Interferon Institute (1975) and helped Beijing’s Institute of Virology make β-IFN as China’s first biotech therapeutic. In 1982 he was invited by the Singapore government to found the Institute of Molecular & Cell Biology (IMCB; 1987). By 2000, IMCB became an international success story inspiring his country and the region to focus on biomedical research; Biopolis was built (2003). Tan nurtured the first and second generation returnees from America and Europe, now international science leaders from Singapore, China and the region. His interest in technology platforms for new drug development continues.

Wanjin Hong (Acting Director 2001-2004)

Professor Wanjin Hong graduated from Xiamen University (Fujian, China) in 1982 and was chosen for further graduate training in the United States via the highly selective CUSBEA program. He received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York (SUNY Buffalo), and was a postdoctoral fellow there before he joined the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) in Singapore as a Principal Investigator in 1989. He received the National Science Award (Singapore) in 1999.

In 2001, Professor Hong was appointed Acting Director of IMCB and he was responsible for several major changes during his leadership. He managed the merger of IMCB with the Institute of Molecular Agrobiology (IMA), oversaw the relocation of an expanded IMCB from the NUS campus to the Biopolis, supervised the recruitment of several junior PIs and established a basic and translational research program in SARS virus with Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Baxter Vaccines.

Sir David Lane (Executive Director 2004-2007)

Professor Sir David Lane obtained his Ph.D. from University College London where he studied auto-immunity. He then did his postdoctoral studies at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) London where he discovered the p53 tumour suppressor protein, and at Cold Spring Harbour Laboratories in New York where he developed monoclonal antibodies and discovered the p68 RNA helicase. In 1980, he returned to UK to set up his own laboratory at Imperial College London before moving his team to the ICRF at Clare Hall in 1985 and subsequently to Dundee University in 1990.

In 1996, he established Cyclacel, a cancer therapeutics company which has developed two new anti-cancer drugs currently in clinical trial. Sir David has won many international prizes and awards for his work and served on the advisory boards of several institutes.

Professor Sir David Lane helped to raise the scientific profile of IMCB by recruiting international leaders in research like Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins, Philip Ingham and Jean Paul Thiery. At the same time, he was instrumental in setting up the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC) as a centre of excellence to advance and accelerate drug development in Singapore.

Neal Copeland (Executive Director 2007-2010)

Professor Neal Copeland received his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from the University of Utah. He carried out postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School before becoming Associate Staff Scientist at The Jackson Laboratory. He then moved to the National Cancer Institute-Frederick as Senior Investigator. Prof Copeland headed the Molecular Genetics of Oncogenesis Section and also served as Director of the Mouse Cancer Genetics Program. For more than 30 years, he has worked together with Prof Nancy Jenkins to model many different types of human disease in the mouse but the focus of the current research is exclusively cancer. They have published more than 750 papers and are also among the 50 most cited biomedical research scientists in the world today. In 2009, Professor Copeland was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences for his continuing contribution and dedication to the furthering of scientific knowledge in the field of Genetics.

Professor Copeland streamlined operations at IMCB and implemented individual group research operating budgets. He also recruited renowned Drosophila geneticists Professors Stephen Cohen and Pernille Rorth and a talented young scientist, Dr Ernesto Guccione, as PIs.

Stephen Cohen (Acting Executive Director 2010-2011)

Professor Stephen Cohen received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He did post-doctoral work at the Whitehead Institute at MIT and later at the Max Planck Institute in Tübigen Germany, where he began his studies on Drosophila developmental genetics. He was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Assistant Investigator at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas, before moving to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in 1993. In 1996, he became Head of the Developmental Biology Unit at EMBL and was elected as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. In 2007 he moved to Singapore to assume the position of Executive Director at the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory. In 2008 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

Professor Cohen helmed IMCB’s smooth transition into A*STAR’s RIE2015 funding tranche. He played a pivotal role in the development of the A*STAR Molecular Pathology Laboratory (AMPL) as well as in IMCB’s engagement with several industrial partners

Wanjin Hong (Executive Director since 2011)

Professor Wanjin Hong was appointed Executive Director of IMCB on 7 November 2011 after an international search. His current focus is to reposition IMCB by sustaining mechanistic basic research for novel discoveries in the area of cancer, infectious, metabolic and neurological diseases as well as by increasing targeted translational research to enhance the value of IMCB's discoveries. In so doing, he aims to increase the impact made by IMCB on A*STAR's mission to promote Singapore's economic growth.

He will also emphasize the recruitment and training of a younger generation of scientists from the international research community as well as nurture A*STAR scholars via the IMCB Independent Fellow (IIF) Programme.