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Water ecosystems research gets industry boost

28 January 2013

Prof Ong (centre) and Mr Bhaskar Narayanaan, Thermo Fisher Singapore's Vice President and General Manager, formalising the partnership at the signing ceremony

NUS Environmental Research Institute (NERI), a global interdisciplinary institute for environmental sciences and engineering, and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc have announced a partnership to study how metabolism in plants and bacteria affects water quality and the ecosystem in and around Singapore. Water safety and sustainability are critical for health and the environment.

Scientists from NERI and the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering - an interdisciplinary Research Centre of Excellence funded by NUS, National Research Foundation, Singapore Ministry of Education and Nanyang Technological University - will investigate how metabolomes relate to the functioning of microbes in the urban water cycle. Metabolomes are all the products of metabolism in an organism at any given time.

Advanced analytical tools such as hi-tech liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC-MS) systems will be tapped to identify and measure metabolites in samples. The research seeks to gain knowledge and raise the self-purification capacity of urban waterways employing natural processes to regulate the nutrients and contaminants in surface water. Another objective is to have better metabolic understanding of wastewater purification to enhance the relevant processes.

Said Professor Ong Choon Nam, Director of NERI: "Safe and sustainable quality water is fundamental to both human and ecosystem health. By understanding better how plants and microbes affect our water quality, we could look into developing improved tools or methods that could significantly increase our ability to identify health and environmental threats more prudently."

Under the collaboration, Thermo Fisher Scientific will improve NERI's current LC-MS systems with the latest instrumentation and technologies, as well as allow the research team to access the comprehensive range of the company's laboratory solutions. The joint venture will encourage the exchange of ideas and expertise to enhance equipment knowledge and software performance, such that new sample preparation methodologies, innovative applications and publications for knowledge sharing can be developed.

NERI, by partnering Thermo Fisher, will also help contribute to the specialised field of Environmental Metabolomics by building up manpower and skills.