Week 4: More on CRISPR/Cas and NovogeneAIT

This week we had a more in-depth look at the CRISPR-Cas system for the lecture. I think that it is very exciting when you realise that we are still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the role and functions of Cas proteins in bacteria. And yet we have already discovered Cas proteins that are able to not just produce a double-stranded break but produce a single-stranded nick and even sticky ends. Repeatedly, however, seems to be that the real bottleneck of this technology is managing the offsite targeting effects. This still leaves room for error and with regards to clinical therapeutics, this is definitely something that you would want to eliminate as much as possible. We are however in a time when CRISPR-Cas system gene therapy is likely to see way more applications, as scientists continue to understand the functions and possibly uncover more immunological defence systems in bacteria that may help us too. The assigned readings (and their diagrams) really helped me to understand the mechanism of the different Cas proteins because initially, it was difficult to conceptualise. And the lecture helped to consolidate my understanding by reiterating what I had read beforehand.

I must add that the guest tutorial by Novogene AIT was a good addition to the week as it fed my interest in the business aspect of biotechnology. It must be quite hard to “stay ahead of the competition” all the time and is probably not as simple as the speaker had made it be. Understandably there are probably some marketing strategies he is unable to reveal, even though I wanted to know how exactly do they have intel about the latest software, technology etc. Trend analysis is also something that interests me, so I was glad to hear about how they work towards trying to predict the needs of their clients beyond what they request from them, showing them that the company is able to provide more services (and at the same time making more profit!). The idea of master contracts is also pretty strategic, instead of just targeting individual labs. With Singapore being very small, however, I can see why geographic segregation is also necessary. This idea of a concerted effort really pays off, not just in business but in everyday life. It is not efficient to divide your energy in too many places. As a service provider company, working closely with government agencies/authorities is probably a good move too. In Singapore where the government nowadays concentrates its resources on a lot of data-driven projects, such contracts provide a lot of stability and reputability. Lastly, the speaker’s comment on being a service provider in today’s economy really struck out to me. Being someone who is currently thinking about having my own business one day, it was really relevant advice. With today’s sharing economy, being a service provider is very advantageous and this business model has a lot of potential given the right service in demand!


Week 3: SCIEX and CRISPR/Cas

I really enjoyed the field trip to SCIEX this week. I think that it is interesting to see how companies optimise their operations and also as a biotech company, how they continue to innovate and improve in an iterative fashion. They take into account not only customer feedback but even things like walking distance to optimise associate work efficiency.

As for the science technology, I think that its great that they are looking at forecasting the trends for mass spec analysis instead of just waiting on their customer demands. Having the best of both worlds in the QTRAP system is great for the future when we might be looking to analysing greater amounts in a shorter period of time, we will need to rely more on qualitative screening.

For lecture and reading, I enjoyed the review papers assigned to us. Gave me a comprehensive understanding of the mechanics of CRISPR/Cas9 system as well as the future modifications that can be done to it. Prof Liou did a good job in reiterating the reading material again, as well as the difference and advantages between RNAi and CRISPR. I think that RNAi has a lot of potential but it’s right to say that there is a lot of difficulty in getting it approved due to the off-target effects. Patisiran is the first RNAi approved as a therapeutic, so I think that there is way more that can be worked on this area.

Dealing with rejection

Today, the School of Computing (SOC) sent my rejection email for my Business Analytics Minor application.

I can’t describe how I feel other than to say I feel a tinge lost. Ever since I decided I would take the huge leap to switch my track to Business Analytics minor two semesters ago, I always thought I had a plan ahead of me. Looking at it, I’m not sure if that means I can no longer take any more business analytics mods. If that’s the case I will be more disappointed because I actually enjoyed the BT1101 mod I took the last sem, just that I really regret not investing more time into it.

Moving forward, I emailed someone to ask about it. Hopefully, it is a yes but I’m prepared for the no. This sem has really hit me with a load of reorganizing my initial study plan, so I’m not surprised if I have to do it again.

What I really hope is that I can move forward and continue to do better for all my other mods because I know this rejection is not the end for me, as much as it was an idealized scenario.

Learning from Failure: GWM Babes

“Concentrating on one thing at a time may be the single most important factor in achieving flow.”

– Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Around November last year, a friend of mine tagged me in a post from a fitness account doing a giveaway for a set of sports bra and leggings. I’m sure like many women who saw the post, I went “damn free sportswear if I just share this post? Sign me up.” And so was the beginning of something too good to be true.

Firstly, when you go over to the advertised link, the free activewear came with a ‘shipping fee’ of around 30SGD. Now, the e-shopper in me knows that shipping from China can’t possibly cost that much, and I’m sure it wasn’t coming from the US. So it was clear they were trying to make as much profit off this launch as possible, which I don’t fault them for. I do fault them for the fact that the made explicit promises time and time again for stipulated arrival time, but they never seemed to meet. It surprised me that even though I was one of the first few to make my order (my friend had an even earlier order number and she still received hers late), I was part of the very last batch.

The lack of transparency as to how they were deciding which orders got fulfilled, just floored me. By order number? No. By size? Maybe. They were sending out their orders based on which size was manufactured, and yet they weren’t following a numeric order within the size orders. Not only is it confusing but it just raises some questions as to the fairness of it all. Some Facebook users even questioned if they were pushing up orders of those who made enough noise. Highly disappointed.

All in all, I just think whoever was part of this team was way in over their heads, shooting in too many directions. They could have done some prediction as to the quantity that they were going to pre-order and maybe have some of the stock in first before launching their campaign. Even the way that the checking of orders was initially handles was a mess. Customers were encouraged to join a Facebook group for more updates when that is probably one of the most chaotic methods I can think of for themselves and for the customers. They later released an excel sheet on the suggestion from one of the Facebook members.

Just my two cents worth and reflection on this debacle of a launch.

My Parents Told Me No

“We are never in lack of money.

We lack people with dreams, who can die for those dreams.”

– Jack Ma

My father was outraged when I told him I would be going to Pulau Ubin for 21 days. My mother cried when I informed her I would be staying on campus for 2 years. All my life, my parents have been very protective of me, but that has not stopped me.

I was constantly berated by my parents for wanting to do things that they deemed “girls shouldn’t be doing” such as sports and outdoor activities. Even as I was about to enter University, part of me still felt like a small girl, scared and unsure of what I could achieve. At that point, I knew I wanted to change their perceptions of me, and their perceptions of what a girl could and could not do. And so began my journey to prove them wrong, to relearn and rediscover the kind of person I want to be. Although it was painful to see them angry hurt initially, I wanted to seize the opportunities in front of me and I still do.

While I continue to walk this path of self-discovery each and every day, I know what fuels me is my desire for adventure and challenges. These two areas breed discomfort and uncertainty, of which push me towards excellence. I can never be better than I was yesterday if I don’t choose to challenge myself and open myself up to opportunities for learning. Gravitating towards experiences that further my personal growth, I one day want to be in a position as an entrepreneur to inspire other ‘small girls’ to take control of their potential.

End of June reflection

“When work becomes play, and play becomes work, your life unfolds.”

– Robert Frost

July is closing in and there is merely a week of June left. What an eventful few weeks it has been, indeed. Besides the fact that I got to take a short trip to Taiwan, right after my finals, one of my highlights for my summer so far has been the completion of my two main projects.

NUS Kayaking has been a huge part of my life and completing Legs & Paddles 2019 officially marked the end of my time with them. I know that deep down, I’ll still be helping them out here and there, but I want to shift my focus on new land.

My time as an assistant mentor for the 0319 batch of LSA wasn’t easy. I wasn’t able to fully commit my time and energy to it due to some family commitments and at the same time juggling work, school and Kayaking meetings. It was hard for me because I know that I was not fully present for my mentees, much less present for myself to learn from the experience. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised when D-day came and the event was generally a smooth success.

Upon reflection, I really do enjoy my roles in both NUS Kayaking and as an OBS assistant mentor. Even though I wish I could be doing more of what I do in those positions at work, I realize that some areas overlap and I learn even more things outside of what I do in kayaking in OBS. Interning at SCALE was initially just a means for financial security during this summer, but now I’m starting to see how much I can really learn especially about business development and event operations from here. I’m excited for the weeks ahead, and secretly hoping for more work.

5 Year Plan? Not yet.

I’m not sure. In the next two years, I know that I will be finishing my last two years in university but what about the next three? And in those two years alone I’m not even sure what is really ahead for me. About 5 months ago when I decided that I wanted to venture into entrepreneurship, I knew that it was going to be difficult. Here I am in June, my mid-year check-in and we haven’t made much progress. What’s wrong? Not enough time was intentionally spent on it. At the start, I was spending at least an hour of my day on market research but along the way, I got extremely distracted by my other priorities. The time spend on our side project started to dwindle. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I’ve come to realize that in order to move forward, I should 1) spend less energy beating myself up on not “doing enough” and 2) continue to create realistic goals for me to complete each day, baby steps. As my lecturer once said, if you don’t start pushing the ball, how do you expect it to roll?

Since LNP and (very soon) Ubin Unite is coming to an end, I have less of an excuse for not putting enough time into my business idea. Honestly, I think it’s time for me to realise when to let go of my ideas too and start again at the drawing board.

What is your beachhead market? What’s their budget, urgency, priority, access?