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One of the goals for WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory is to develop healthier foods and ingredients.
SINGAPORE — Wilmar International Ltd. and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have established a new joint research laboratory to conduct clinical nutrition and synthetic biology research to create healthier food products as well as to devise green production technologies for industrial enzymes and biochemicals.

The new WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory was launched by Heng Swee Keat, minister for Finance and chairman of the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF). Based at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, the S$110 million research facility is set up by Wilmar, NUS, NRF. The laboratory seeks to strengthen Singapore’s innovation system by conducting industry-relevant research and development.

The WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory is led by associate professor Matthew Chang, director of the NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation program, and Rebecca Lian, Distinguished Fellow at Wilmar. Research activities at the 2,000-square-meter laboratory will focus on two key thrusts: firstly, to address major public health issues through the development of healthier foods and ingredients; and secondly, to design cost effective and sustainable methods of producing chemical compounds using natural sources.

Tan Eng Chye, president of NUS, said, “This win-win partnership combines NUS’ strong expertise in biomedical sciences and translational medicine with Wilmar’s rich industry experience and global networks to address two pressing real-world challenges — lifestyle related diseases and sustainable production of industrial chemicals. We look forward to working closely with Wilmar to create and commercialize scientific innovations to improve health outcomes as well as generate societal and economic benefits for Singapore, Asia and beyond.”

Kuok Khoon Hong, Wilmar’s chairman and chief executive officer (CEO), said, “As a Singapore headquartered company, Wilmar is very honored to be able to leverage the world-class clinical research capabilities of NUS in this academic-industry collaboration. We hope that this gathering of great minds will result in the development of new technologies that can enhance the quality of our food products and at the same time reduce our carbon footprint. This way, consumers worldwide will benefit.”

Low Teck Seng, CEO of NRF, said, “The partnership between Wilmar and NUS is significant as it builds on Singapore’s growing research expertise in synthetic biology, nutrition and food science. The WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory leverages the deep knowledge and strong capabilities in NUS, and will see researchers work with industry to create products that have high value for health, nutrition and industrial use. Companies are investing more in R&D to create new products and businesses for growth. We will continue to support industry-academia partnerships to translate cutting-edge technologies into health and economic benefits for Singapore.”

Over the next five years, the WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory expects to train more than 60 researchers and PhD students, who will play a critical role in supporting the growth of the food and nutrition, as well as synthetic biology-related industries in Singapore and Asia.