Monday, October 18, 2010

Lilly Singapore Center for Drug Discovery gets the chop

In 2001 the EDB inked a deal with Eli Lilly to set up a research facility for systems biology in Singapore. Along the way the systems biology bit was morphed into a Center for Drug Discovery. Now after 8 years, Eli Lilly has given the Center for Drug Discovery the chop. About 130 jobs will be on the line, although it is not clear how many of these jobs are local jobs, and how many are 'foreign' talents.

The EDB has a mission to bring in big names to 'buzz up' the local R&D environment. For this it has been given a fairly massive war chest. The strategy appears to be to throw money at big named companies to entice them to set up research facilities in Singapore. Create a buzz, has been the buzzword. Eli Lilly was not the only company to have tasted of these low lying fruits. Now after sampling these fruits for 8 years Lilly has decided that it is better off elsewhere, especially after the EDB grants wear off.

I am personally not so convinced of the EDB's strategy to just throw money at these companies for dramatic short term buzzes. I am unsure how much real benefit follow from such extravagance. A high end research facility employing how many locals? Did the research facility really benefit the local research environment; really result in long term enhancement of the local research infrastructure? I am more than skeptical. The money could have been better spent developing real quality in home grown efforts. Methinks this would have had more enduring effects than the printing of glossy annual reports.

Who audits the EDB, I wonder?

Prof Su Guaning steps down as President of NTU

So after 8 rather tumultous years, Prof Su Guaning steps down as President of NTU.

It seems not to have been an easy time for him managing the transition between the past and the future. I guess it never is. But NTU has always seemed like it lacked the ability to learn from the 'mistakes' NUS made during her transition. It had clearly been a painful process for the NUS, and NTU proceeding half a step behind could have avoided some of the pitfalls that NUS appeared to have made, but somehow it did not, and in the process, generated a lot of unnecessary heat and heartaches.

Not a good thing when you want to cultivate supportive alumni.

So I wish the new President, Prof Bertil Andersson all the best, though I am not too hopeful as he seems to have developed a reputation for being far more brutal and cold in his approach towards academic excellence; perhaps good for university rankings, but not necessarily best for students and staff.

Do we need to be concerned that 3 out the 4 local universities have foreign Prezzies? Nahhh....It's not a big deal. Locals are not necessarily more considerate of local cultures and needs, since they can be just as cold and heartless in their pursuit of institutional KPIs.

I am actually far more concerned that all 4 of our varsities have missions to be at the top of their league. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means we will have no universities that cater to the average students who do not necessarily want to be Nobel Prize winners. Take for example, the medical schools we have. If all of our 2 + 1 medical schools strive to train clinical researchers par excellence, then who will train good doctors; doctors who care, but do not necessarily win academic awards, and chase fame and fortune?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Road hogs and tailgaters

Intrigued by a report in today's Straits Times, I googled "road hog"to find out what it actually referred to. Three possible meanings popped up:

"A motorist whose vehicle overlaps the traffic lane used by another motorist."

"a selfish or aggressive driver"

"a driver who obstructs others"

Clearly there isn't much of a consensus here, and the derogatory term could just as well refer to the tailgating speedster on the fast lane or to the guy who refuses to speed while on the fast lane of the expressway. Both have a right to be there, but the tailgating speedster is more likely to be breaking the law. The guy who is keeping to the speed limit is really not breaking the law; after all, where can he drive if he keeps at the speed limit? The middle lane is really going too slow. It seems unreasonable to expect that he should be the one who bears the burden and risk of continually changing in and out of the fast lane so that Bob (see above) can have his religious experience.

Mdm Kwa Geok Choo, requiscat in pace

No doubt she was the pillar of strength behind MM Lee, but I think Mdm Kwa truly distinguished herself in not doing the one thing that many women in her position are most prone to do, id est, self-aggrandizement.

My heart goes out to the family.

Mdm Kwa, requiscat in pace.