South Korea stole headlines after creating the world's first cloned dog, but the tiny city-state of Singapore is quietly preparing to take the fruits of its stem cell research straight to the market.
Steven Fang, chief executive of Singapore-based CyGenics AX> , said more Singapore-based firms are taking the greenfield research of U.S. and Korean scientists and turning it into marketable technology safe for human use.
CyGenics develops and markets adult stem-cell related products, services and technologies.
"Stem cell development needs to be turned into a mature technology that is of meaningful use to humans," said Fang, at the company's blood bank, where umbilical cord blood is frozen for possible future use in the fight against lymphoma, anemia and bone marrow cancer.
"We are trying to make the stem cell technology safe for humans to use."
In 2002, a Singapore boy suffering from leukemia was treated with stem cells from his baby sister, whose parents had stored blood from her umbilical cord at the company's storage facility, CordLife. The boy is now in remission.
Researchers believe that stem cells could one day be used to provide individually tailored tissue and organ transplants, or repair spinal cord injuries.
When asked whether Asia was leading the stem cell research race, Fang said: "To a great extent, yes. Asia got a head start."
Researchers in Asia got a boost in funding after the Bush administration sought restrictions on government support for stem-cell research in the United States.
"But in practical terms, the U.S. can catch up," said Fang, who is also the chairman of BioSingapore, an association that represents biomedical enterprises.
Singapore has promoted the biomedical sector with grants, tax incentives a more at source
nd the 2003 opening of a S$300 million biotech park. The grants have attracted foreign experts like Alan Colman, who was part of the team that created Dolly the sheep in Scotland.