Leader of Tomorrow and GapSummit 2016 attendee Dr. Sandhya Sriram is currently a Research Fellow at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), A*STAR, working on stem cells from fat and teeth. She is the Vice President of the A*STAR postdoc society (A*PECSS) as well as the co-founder, director and assistant editor of the online virtual newsroom Biotechin.Asia.
Q: Sandhya, thank you very much for joining us today. What was your motivation to apply for the GapSummit?
Sandhya: I am an active member/Vice President at the A*STAR postdoc society (A*PECSS) in Singapore. A*PECSS is a volunteer society of A*STAR postdocs/scientists which focuses on expanding the career development opportunities for A*STAR early career researchers. I am a strong believer of alternative careers for PhD graduates and postdocs who do not want to continue in Academia/Industry.
I also run a website called Biotechin.Asia which encourages scientific communication as a career option for Life Science graduates/students. The main reason for starting this website was to build a community of entrepreneurs, academicians and industry professionals; bridge the gap between the different sectors and encourage the general public to know more about latest advancements in healthcare.
When I came across GapSummit 2016, I felt it also encompasses all the above in various forms. Hence the motivation to apply for GapSummit 2016 in Cambridge.
Q: Can you explain in more detail what you hope to learn at the GapSummit?
Sandhya: The 7 gaps that are a part of the GapSummit this year are extremely interesting and relevant to what is happening at present in the world and also what stands in the future. I hope to learn more about the following gaps:
- Research and Innovation Gap
- Funding Gap
- Public Perception and Education Gap
These gaps are rarely openly discussed in detail. It is interesting to note that GapSummit specifically talks about these gaps. We need to have more discussions such as these so that effective solutions can be implemented to bridge these gaps.
Q: What do you feel is a particular challenge in one of the 7 gaps of the Summit, and what could be a potential solution?
Sandhya: The Research and Innovation Gap: There is not much communication between academia/researchers and industry/companies. Unless this gap is bridged, bringing innovations from the lab to the market is going to be a huge challenge. Academia and industry need to collaborate more and encourage entrepreneurship as well.
For the above to happen, researchers/professors have to stop focussing only on publications and getting their manuscript published. Nothing is going to come out of just a manuscript, unless the innovation is being implemented. The commercialisation aspect of research is very important and it should be inculcated in students and staff in research labs right from the start.
Collaborations between industry and academia is happening to a certain extent; to involve startups, researchers should be encouraged to take the step towards entrepreneurship.
Q: What do you think is a strength of the bio-economy in Singapore?
Sandhya: Singapore aims to be the Silicon Valley of the East. It will definitely take time for this, but we are going on the right path. Innovation, research and the bioeconomy are three important aspects of Singapore’s budget and are areas of focus at the moment. The strength of Singapore is that it is trying to create a hub for “East meets West” whilst also integrating academia, industry and startups in one sector.
The government in Singapore is extremely supportive of innovation and enterprise and in fact it recently announced S$19b investments in this sector. This is to create a “Smart Nation”, an initiative by the Singaporean government to significantly contribute to the economy, create jobs, and help progress globalisation and technological advances.
Communication and collaboration between these three sectors is key to a strong bioeconomy.
Q: You are working as a Research Fellow in academic research in the area of stem cell research. Can you explain what a recent innovation was that might strongly influence this research field?
Sandhya: Stem cells are the go-to field now for therapy and drug discovery as well. The field is booming with new research and innovations every day. The most recent innovation that caught my attention was amethod to convert cells into usable stem cells. This simple technique would help produce stem cells at a large scale for therapeutic applications.
Thank you for your time and we are looking forward to welcome you to the GapSummit 2016.