A new research laboratory has been established by Wilmar International, an Asian agribusiness company, and the National University of Singapore, with the aim to conduct clinical nutrition and synthetic biology research in order to create healthier food products. The $80.1 million research facility was jointly set up by Wilmar, NUS and the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore.
“This win-win partnership combines NUS’s 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,” said NUS president, Tan Eng Chye.
The research conducted at the 2,000 square metre laboratory will focus on two key areas: the development of healthier foods and ingredients that will address major public health issues and the design of cost-effective and sustainable methods of producing chemical compounds using natural sources.
Researchers at the WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory will study how different combinations of food can alter absorption and metabolism in Asians, and ultimately prevent diseases or promote health and well-being. For example, researchers will formulate healthier cooking oils that could reduce cholesterol levels in the elderly, and in turn lower the risk of chronic diseases, increase muscle mass and improve taste perception.
In addition, they will also develop food products, such as ready-to-eat meals and beverages that could control weight-gain, blood glucose and lipids to help individuals manage diabetes and obesity. Scientists at the WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory will also capitalise on recent advances in the field of synthetic biology to engineer microbes and enzymes to produce biochemical from natural sources in a more sustainable and cost-effective way. These biochemicals can then be used in industries such as food and nutrition, flavours and fragrances, as well as therapeutics.
“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,” said Wilmar CEO, Kuok Khoon Hong.