TP student helps advance HIV research during internship
He helps publish paper in international science journal on delaying drug resistance in HIV protein after internship at A*Star
As a 20-year-old intern at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), Mr Ron Chiang never expected to have his name and work published in an international science journal and as first author.
Those dreams came true when in February this year, his work was published in Bioscience Reports, where he found three possible new areas of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that can be targeted for drug development and design.
Now 22, Mr Chiang, a graduate from the diploma in biotechnology in Temasek Polytechnic (TP), worked on the paper with his mentors, Dr Su Chinh, postdoctoral fellow, and Dr Samuel Gan, a principal investigator, in 2016, when Mr Chiang was still an intern with the agency.
"Publishing a paper is not something many people get to do on their internship, so it feels great," the full-time national serviceman told The New Paper.
He was part of the pioneer batch of students in the bioinformatics specialisation, and did the study as part of his final year project in his third year.
He was originally aiming to recreate a study done by Dr Chinh, which sought to inhibit drug resistance in the HIV protein.
However, not only was he able to reproduce the study findings, Mr Chiang and Dr Gan also found potential druggable regions as well as treatment methods to delay drug resistance onset.
For the 7,548 people in Singapore who are infected with HIV, the paper spells good news; as their model of drug choice would also delay the virus from mutating further.
"We have evidence to support that this model of drug selection of drugs prevents patients from spending money on less effective drugs," Mr Chiang said.
He tapped on skills he learnt during the course of his study in TP, including programming software such as Python, which he used to automate the scripting process during the study.
Dr Gan, who was also a TP graduate from the diploma in biotechnology, said he hopes the study will make an impact on the HIV research community
"After Ron left, we continued the work he had done and found other drug candidates that can be used against HIV," he said.
The researcher added that poly students who intern with A*Star come in with industry ready skills, giving them a competitive advantage.
"These students come in with industry ready skills they can use in the field. More importantly, they should come in with the passion to succeed," he said.
He credited TP for "starting off a chain of events" that led him to his success as a researcher today.
Dr Gan has seen over 50 interns in the last five years.
He said school internships are beneficial to the industry and the student.
"If Singapore is really serious about science, then we need to groom the next generation to be globally competitive," he said.
Apply to Temasek Poly via EAE
- Secure a place at Temasek Polytechnic even before taking the O-level examinations
- Take the direct route to an excellent education now
- Apply through Temasek Polytechnic's Early Admissions Exercise at www.tp.edu.sg/eae