2004 Jury Member

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise

Location: Singapore

Chris Y.H. Tan
Singapore, Born 1941

“Biology is a ‘can-do science’ requiring determination, not genius,” says Professor “Chris” Y. H. Tan, distinguished biochemist and molecular researcher from Singapore. 


Tan, currently working at Singapore’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), which he directed from its foundation in 1987 until 2001, has devoted himself to solving some of the mysteries of the living cell.

Inspired by a passion for ecology, he has spent the past 30 years in biomedical research. In 1975, after a decade of study and work at several leading American universities and the U.S. National Institute of Health, he joined the University of Calgary in Canada where his research transformed the study of interferon, a protein which inhibits virus replication and is thus a major key to improving human health. In 1987, he returned to Singapore to establish IMCB, a premier research institute integrating cell signaling and neurobiology. IMCB has made groundbreaking discoveries on cell regulation, genomics and drug discovery.

As the world focused on the human genome, Tan and his team took a short cut to decipher the “book of life” in the human genome by choosing to sequence the compact genome of the Japanese pufferfish. This insightful approach has led to the discovery of at least 1,000 previously unknown human genes. “All this is helping transform Singapore into a ‘biopolis’, a bio-city for the translation of biomedical research to economic exploitation,” comments Tan, who, since 2001, has acted as an advisor to government agencies in Singapore and Japan on the creation and structuring of knowledge-based bio-economies.

Other 2004 Jury Members