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New Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering to get $206m funding

The National Research Foundation (NRF) and two of the local universities will be pumping a total of $206 million over the next 10 years to support a new life sciences centre in Singapore. The Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE) will focus its study on microbial biofilms - or communities of micro-organisms (such as bacteria) and how they aggregate and perform certain functions together (like resist antibiotics).

Using a medical example to illustrate the prevalence and impact of biofilms, National University of Singapore (NUS) president Tan Chorh Chuan said: 'When we introduce catheters or tubes into patients, one of the problems is that biofilms of bacteria form on the tubes. So you recognise it as a slimy coating.

'But the real problem is when bacteria starts to harbour in the biofilms, when you use antibiotics, quite often, they don't penetrate well into biofilms and bacteria can then escape the effects of antibiotics and become resistant.'

If the centre is able to understand how biofilms form and disintegrate without using antibiotics, then it can potentially help make antibiotics more effective. That knowledge may also have applications in water technologies and environmental sustainability.

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