Research Categories

Biomedical Sciences and Life Sciences

This category covers:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Cancer Biology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Motility & Cytoskeleton
  • Computational Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genomics and Epigenetics
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Innate and Adaptive Immunity
  • Ion Channels
  • Ion Channels and Transport
  • Malaria Research
  • Molecular Bacteriology
  • Neuroscience
  • Peptide Based Pharmaceuticals
  • Physiology
  • Protein Chemistry
  • Protein-Protein Interaction
  • Proteomics
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cell Research
  • Structural Biology
  • Virology

As one of the priority research, NTU has recruited many principal investigators with proven track record to lead the scientific research and teaching, provide training for post-doctoral, post-graduate and undergraduate students. It has four research divisions: Molecular and Cell Biology, Structural and Computational Biology, Chemical Biology and Biotechnology and Genomics and Genetics.

Research Divisions:

Chemical Biology and Biotechnology
In this interdisciplinary field chemical methods are used to study problems in biology and molecular medicine, leading to a detailed analysis of the interactions between different molecules with an emphasis on the proteins. Research carried out at this Division helps develop a broad appreciation of the interplay between chemistry and biology. Rapid advances in technology in recent years have allowed us to work on entire biological systems, thereby providing a more complete picture of how they function. For example, it is now possible to understand context-dependent changes in protein expression, or even describe the complex pattern of protein interactions in a cell. Techniques like large-scale 2D-electrophoretic analysis provide a snapshot of the nature of the thousands of proteins expressed in a cell. This integrated field of proteomics will gather the different methodologies and facilities necessary for the study of genomes both at the computational and experimental level, and these tools may be used to develop protein chips and specific drugs that have useful industrial and biomedical applications.

Structural and Computational Biology
Structural Biology, the study of the three-dimensional structures of biological macromolecules, is combined with Computational Biology, which fuses elements of computer science with biology for dealing with the vast amount of biological data. Studying the structure of biological macromolecules such as proteins, and their interaction with other cell structures such as nucleic acids, lipids or complex carbohydrates, is critical to understanding their functions and purposes. This research is of particular importance in drug design. To this end, a number of imaging techniques like X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, electron microscopy and mass spectrometry, are utilized. In addition, computer-modelling methods are used to complement and obtain additional structural information not accessible by experimental methods. Bioinformatics, required for mining and processing the surge of data resulting from genome sequences and functional genomics, is another area being explored, and problems related to the storage, retrieval and analysis of information about biological structures, sequences and functions are addressed.

Molecular and Cell Biology
Molecular and cell biology is a basic research on cells, the fundamental functional units of life, and the increasing complexity from the molecular level to cellular, tissue and organism levels. Many of the diseases affecting humans such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and dementia are due to defects at the cellular level, which cause some cells to behave abnormally. Research in this division works towards a better understanding of cellular biology, including cell development, cell cycle regulation, cytokinesis, cytoskeletal regulation, intracellular signalling and vesicular transport, which is of paramount importance in the fight against diseases originating from cell abnormality. Different model organisms and mammalian cell lines are adopted to understand these cellular processes, and diverse techniques such as live cell imaging, confocal microscopy and Fluorescent Activated Cell Sorting are employed in combination.

Genomics and Genetics
Genomics and Genetics cover one of the most important aspects of modern biology. Discoveries in basic science, especially those based on molecular genetics and the sequencing of the human and other important genomes has revolutionized our understanding of Life. Translating this new knowledge into new approaches for prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of genetic and infectious diseases is essential for improving health. Combining global approaches like DNA microarray analysis with powerful techniques like transgenic animals and genetic manipulation of other model organisms, it is now possible to investigate in detail how cellular processes are regulated. This will eventually lead to new methodologies for treatment and diagnosis. Research at this Division represents a combined effort at basic research, addressing fundamental questions at the molecular and genetic level and applied research, on medical conditions with clinical importance. These include development of genetic tools for human embryonic cell lines, investigation on the genetic basis of chromosomal rearrangements in the Smith-Magenis Syndrome (a form of mental retardation characterized by unusual physical and behavioral defects), gene expression of malaria and its mechanism of host evasion, and communication circuitry within multi-species bacterial biofilms.

Related Links:
Research at School of Biological Sciences
Bioinformatics Research Centre
Biomedical Engineering Research Centre
Biosciences Research Centre 
Drug Discovery Centre

NameResearch Interests
Assoc Prof Ajai VyasThe Ethoneuro Laboratory is a multidisciplinary research laboratory that works at the interface of neurobiology (approach and avoidance behaviours) and parasitology (behavioural manipulation of host by parasites). Majority of the work will relate to behavioural manipulation of rodents by Toxoplasma. We are a research group within School of Biological Sciences at NTU. We are situated in the warm and welcoming environs of Singapore. Our Research Fear and attraction are evolutionary ancient parts of our psyche. Using animal models, we study how brain brings about these; and what happens when they get mixed up! Our research program is inspired the fact that a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, can invade rat brain and removes deep-seated fears from a rat’s psyche. Why? So that parasite can hitch-hike a ride to cat intestines (when fearless rat is eaten by the cat) and reproduce there. This paradigm allows access to a really specific perturbation system for fear. In our lab, we try to learn how this parasite manages to make rats fearless. Recently, we have observed that female rats prefer males infected with Toxoplasma over run-of-the-mill uninfected animals. This is interesting because females usually detect and detest parasitized males. A male teeming with parasites is infected because he likely has a poor immune defense, and thus a questionable genetic legacy. The fact that Toxoplasma can get around such evolutionary hard-wired behavior is exciting. We are now trying to learn the mechanisms of this effect.
Dr Alessandra BonanniBiosensor technologies Biosensors are analytical tools which combine a biorecognition agent which provides selectivity and a transducer that confers sensitivity and can convert the biorecognition event into a measurable electronic signal. The advantage of using biosensor over traditional techniques is represented by their low costs, small dimensions, portability, and fast response. The different areas for potential biosensor applications are mainly medical diagnosis, environmental monitoring and food analysis. DNA analysis DNA analysis is of extreme importance to solve problems of different nature such as investigation on genetic diseases, detection of food and water contamination by microorganism, studies on breeding origins or tissue matching, and solution of forensic issues. The techniques for genome identification are nowadays mainly based on DNA sequencing by using fluorescent labels and optical detectors. They require a few days for the analysis to be completed and the costs are prohibitive to the general public. Demand has never been greater for innovative technologies which can provide fast, inexpensive and reliable genome information. The focus of my research is on the development of analytical tools (biosensors) for the rapid, reliable and low cost identification of DNA sequences. In order to achieve that, different electrochemical techniques are used for the detection of the analytical signal. The developed biosensors are based on various platforms (such as gold, carbon and silicon) and different nanomaterials (i.e. gold nanoparticles, graphene nanoplatelets and several quantum dots) are employed for the amplification of the obtained signal and the improvement of detection limit. The final step of this work is the application of the developed genosensor to real sample analysis. Once this second part is successfully accomplished, the analytical tool could be eventually integrated into a DNA amplification process, resulting in a portable device for point-of-care diagnostic tests and for very sensitive detection of SNPs correlated to different diseases. Food Analysis This field includes research in the two following areas: - Application of DNA genosensors to identify of DNA sequences correlated to bacteria involved in food contamination (i.e. Salmonella spp, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli) - Development of electrochemical biosensors for the detection of antioxidant capacity of food and beverages
Assoc Prof Alfred Tok Iing Yoong1) Carbon-based Field-Effect Transistor Sensors The biosensors market, which is currently at USD 9.9 billion, is expected to reach USD 18.9 billion in 2019 (GIA Report, 2014) propelled by the growing population and health issues. Our group capitalizes on this emergent market and researches on disposable and low-cost sensor suitable for real-time sensing in field conditions. Our group focuses on sensors for biological and gas detection applications. 2) Synthesis of Nanostructured Materials using Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) Atomic layer deposition (ALD) has evolved to be a unique tool for nanotechnology with atomic level control of the depositions, 3D conformity and homogeneity. Film depositions can be realized for complex non-planar topographies for a wide range of applications such as energy conversion and storage, nanoparticle catalysts, nanostructures for drug delivery, gas separations, sensing, and photonic applications. Our group focuses on ALD materials for solar cell, hydrogen generation and smart window applications. 3) Hard & Tough Materials for Ballistic Protection Application The next generation of military vehicular and soldier system requires light-weight materials with high strength-to-weight ratio. Our research focuses on the synthesis and densification of nanostructured materials & desired composite architecture to significantly raise the ballistic protection capability. The B-C-N-O group of compounds are potential candidates to form novel materials for ballistic protection application as they inherent the unique properties from both boron nitride and boron carbide which are known for their light weight, high hardness, low friction coefficient and high wear resistance. Prof Tok leads a team of collaborators in armour material research ranging from high temperature synthesis of novel superhard materials and consolidation by state-of-the-art Spark Plasma Sintering to advanced characterisation techniques such as depth of penetration test using Two-Stage Light-Gas Gun. 4) Institute for Sports Research Our group is involved in the Institute for Sports Research, working on the damping property of midsoles which is based on carbon nanotube (CNT). CNT’s high aspect ratios (length/diameter) is particularly desirable for mechanical reinforcement, and it is found that the vertical aligned (VA)CNTs perform well in damping, to dissipate the energy absorbed under compression (Figure 7). Our present job is to tune the damping property of VACNT by adjusting the length, diameter and area density etc. parameters and try to reinforce the polymer with VACNT to fabricate midsole material with better cushion property. 5) NRF-CREATE In accordance with the objectives of the Energy Thrust Program of the NRF-CREATE Project, our group is focused on the design and synthesis of highly functional nanomaterials, which enables energy harvesting and conservation. Recently, novel graphene oxide synthesized nanoballs and nanoflowers were synthesized. These exhibit potentials for supercapacitors and energy applications. In general, these activities results in above 50 publications, 17 patent applications and projects discussions with companies regarding commercialization possibilities.
Assoc Prof Ali MiserezStructural properties of biological materials from the macro-scale to the nano-scale Multi-scale structural and mechanical properties of biological materials, including biominerals. Elastomeric and structural properties of bioelastomers Protein chemistry of sclerotized hard-tissues from marine organisms, such as Cephalopod Single-molecular force spectroscopy of structural and elastic proteins Underwater adhesion mechanisms of adhesive proteins Biofouling RNA-sequencing and proteomics of extra-cellular biological materials Advanced Metal/Ceramic composites Experimental Fracture Mechanics
Asst Prof Amartya SanyalThe main focus of our research is to understand 3D genome organization inside the nucleus and its impact on transcriptional regulatory code during mammalian development, differentiation and disease. Please visit Sanyal Lab webpage ( Human genome is organized in highly complex conformations inside the nucleus. How this three-dimensional organization of chromatin affects gene regulation is largely unknown. Genome-wide annotations of genes and functional regulatory elements do not give an insight into which regulatory elements control any given gene. Long-range looping interactions between gene promoters and distal genomic elements such as enhancers are known to be important for regulation of transcription. The advent of Chromosome Conformation Capture (3C)-based techniques and its high-throughput adaptations has made it possible to detect spatial proximity and high-resolution chromatin interactions between genomic elements. We are particularly interested in understanding how non-coding sequence variants identified by genome-wide association studies (GWAS) contribute to human disease risk and pathogenesis. In the past decade, genome-wide scans of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in populations have identified many genomic loci associated with the predisposition to disease. The observed associations are possibly driven by linkage disequilibrium with the disease-associated region in vicinity. However, >90% GWAS SNPs do not map to coding regions suggesting these variants may, in fact, affect gene regulatory mechanism and involved in controlling the expression of distal target genes, the identity of which remain unknown. Connecting the GWAS SNPs to their target genes would aid in understanding genotype-phenotype relationships in disease and in designing effective treatment and therapeutics. In our lab, we intend using high-throughput genomic methods, genome-editing and imaging techniques in combination with bioinformatics and computational approaches to understand structure-function relationship of chromatin. Overall, we are trying to decipher the regulatory mechanisms of cell- and tissue-specific gene expression in relation to 3D chromatin architecture, epigenetic mechanisms (chromatin modifications) and binding of trans-acting factors to understand various biological processes in normal and disease conditions.
Assoc Prof Arindam BasuLow-power Reconfigurable Mixed-signal design, Neural recording systems, Computational neuroscience, Nonlinear dynamics, Smart sensors for hearing-aids/ultrasound etc, Neuromorphic VLSI
Prof Atul N. ParikhMembrane biophysics biologically inspired materials biosensors synthetic chemical biology
Asst Prof Ayumu TashiroOur lab studies the function of hippocampus circuitry through an interdisciplinary approach combining virus-mediated genetic manipulation, optogenetics and unit recording techniques in behaving rodents. The hippocampus is well known for its functions in memory formation. We are interested in how neuronal circuits in the hippocampus mediate these functions. We particularly focus on two distinct phenomena occurring in the adult hippocampus. The first is adult neurogenesis (generation of new neurons), which occurs exclusively in a hippocampal subregion called the dentate gyrus and a few other area outside the hippocampus. We are interested in 1) how neural processing/activity in the dentate gyrus determines birth of new neurons and their subsequent functional integration into existing circuits and 2) how those new neurons integrated into circuits contribute to the hippocampal functions. The second focus is the cellular mechanism of place-cell activity. Place cells are electrophysiologically-defined cell types found in multiple subregions of the hippocampus. When animals explore environments, place cells fire at specific locations in the environments, which suggests that place-cell activity mediates spatial memory processing in the hippocampus. We investigate cellular mechanism underlying properties of place-cell activity using virus-mediated local genetic manipulations. Our goal is to understand physiological mechanisms in the hippocampus and to provide basic information which is critical to treat and cure brain disorders including dementia, neurodegenerative disease and depression.
Prof Bertil AnderssonPhotosynthesis research, biological membranes, protein and membrane purification, light stress in plants. In addition, author of a number of articles devoted to popular sciences and science policy.
Prof Bo Gunnar LiedbergThe research interests of Prof. Bo Liedberg can be divided into three main areas Surface Chemistry and Self Assembled Monolayers This part of the research concerns fundamental studies of adsorbates and ultrathin molecular architectures, like Self-Assembled Monolayers (SAMs), on solid supports. The group was very early in studying self-assembly of substituted alkylthiols on gold substrates. A key activity has been to study temperature driven phenomena occurring in such assemblies as well as in adsorbed layers on top such SAMs. Oligo(ethylene glycol) and oligosaccharide SAMs have attracted considerable attention, both experimentally and theoretically, because of their structural characteristics and advantageous properties in contact with biofluids. Another area concerns interfacial water and ice. Temperature programmed studies have been undertaken to improve the understanding of the nucleation and microscopic wetting behavior of water/ice. The complexity of the SAMs has increased over the years and we are today focusing on architectures based on SAMs bearing multivalent chelator heads, helix-loop-helix polypeptides and receptor functions. Bioinspired and Biomimetic Nanoscience This research concerns the development of nanoscale architectures fabricated using either top-down or bottom-up protocols (or a combination of both). We are, for example, developing plasmonic arrays based on 100 nm gold nano dots on silicon and glass surface for amplification of optical fluorescence signals, so-called metal enhanced fluorescence (MEF). We are also developing composite materials based on a combination of de novo designed peptide scaffolds, planar surfaces and nanoparticles of controlled size and shape. A novel concept based on peptide folding has been used for controlled assembly of gold nanoparticles. The group is also involved in the development of Dip Pen Nanolithography (DPN) for patterning of surfaces on the 30-100 nm length scale. This work is performed jointly with a previous student of the group who nowadays is setting up a nanolaboratory at the Institute of Physics, Vilnius. We are also involved in several EC projects where different types of micro- and nanoscale patterning tools are employed for production of coatings for biofouling, sensing and biomedical applications. Optical Biosensors, micro- and nanoarrays The group has a long experience in developing optical transducers for biosensing application. We were the first to demonstrate the use of surface plasmon resonance for studies of bioaffinity interactions at surfaces, a technology that today form the backbone in SPR/Biacore instruments developed for biospecific interaction analysis (BIA). We are today using it in combination with ellipsometric interrogation and imaging optics for microarraying, and in combination with nanoparticle for studies optical enhancement phenomena. This includes, for example, microarray chips for protein multiplexing. The group is also working on the development of generic biochips for studies of ligand-receptor binding. Besides working on microarray fabrication for protein detection and analysis we are also developing biochips for the safety and security area. Selected publications 1. Tinazli, A., Tang, J., Valiokas, R., Picuric, S., Lata, S., Piehler, J., Liedberg, B., Tampe, R., Chem. Eur. J. 11, 5249-5259 (2005). 2. Aili, D., Enander, K., Tai, F-I., Baltzer, L., Liedberg, B., Angew. Chem., 120, 5636-5638 (2008). 3. Aili, D., Enander, K., Baltzer, L., Liedberg, B., Nano Letters, 8, 2473-2478 (2008). 4. Andersson, O., Ulrich, C., Björefors, F., Liedberg, B., Sensors&Actuators B: Chemical, 134, 545-550 (2008). 5. Klenkar, G., Liedberg, B., Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 391, 1679-1688 (2008). 6. Aili, D., Selegård. R., Baltzer, L., Enander, K., Liedberg, Small, 5, 2445-2452 (2009). 7. Lee, H.-H., Ruzele, Z., Malysheva, L., Onipko, A., Gutes, A., Björefors, F., Valiokas, R., Liedberg, B., Langmuir, 25(24), 13959–71 (2009).