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Professor Birgitte Lane, FRSE, FMedSci

Chief Scientist, Skin Research Institute of Singapore, Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR)

Living Systems Institute Honorary Professor

We owe it to our species to pursue truth and good science to the very best of our ability, and to use it with wisdom and compassion to improve the sustainable wellbeing of humanity

Biography

Since 2005, I have been helping to build the Biomedical Sciences Initiative in Singapore, founding A*STAR’s Institute of Medical Biology (which I headed from its inception in 2007 until 2018), and the Skin Research Institute of Singapore in 2013. I came to Singapore in 2005 from the University of Dundee, where I held the Cox Chair of Anatomy and Cell Biology from 1991-2009. I got my BSc and PhD degrees in Zoology at University College London and worked through postdoctoral apprenticeships at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (New York), Imperial College (London) and Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) in London, until starting my own research team. The team was one of the pioneer labs at the ICRF Clare Hall Laboratories before moving to Dundee to help initiate the CRC Laboratories at Dundee in 1990.

I previously helped in the wider UK national scientific community through various committees (Research Assessment Exercise, Wellcome Trust, Lister Institute, Cancer Research UK, British Society for Cell Biology), and I played a key role in the early stages of setting up the Wellcome Trust Biocentre at the University of Dundee, as well as leading the formation of the Division of Cell and Developmental Biology at Dundee in the 1990s. I had the privilege of training and mentoring many great young scientists, some of whom are now international professors and key opinion leaders, including Professor Xin Lu, FMedSci (Ludwig Institute Director, Oxford), Professor Irwin McLean FRS, FMedSci (Dundee). In Singapore I continue to mentor young scientists and trainees, run my lab and help guide the research strategy of the Skin Research Institute.

I hold other honorary adjunct positions at the University of Dundee (Emeritus Professor), Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and at NUS, NTU/LKC and the National Skin Centre here in Singapore. I am also an elected Fellow in the UK of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and of the Singapore Academy of Science.

My research work

My research career has focused on epithelial biology, and my special interests are in the function of keratin filament proteins, genetic skin diseases, and skin cancer and wound healing. My team and I are trying to understand the way the epithelial cell cytoskeleton contributes to tissue structure and pathology. We study the links between mutations and tissue structure failure in human skin diseases, and have determined the basis of more than 15 distinct inherited genetic skin diseases over the years.

Our research team has become a central reference point in the field and a leading laboratory for generating monoclonal antibodies to keratins and epithelial cell culture models, and we curate the Human Intermediate Filament Database. The team has made many important contributions to understanding the central role of filament protein networks in the function of epithelial sheet tissues of the body over the years, generating over 250 scientific publications, and I hope that our recent studies on the cellular stress effects of keratin mutations will generate novel approaches to therapy for rare and currently incurable genetic skin diseases such as epidermolysis bullosa.