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In Search of Ourselves

Editor’s Letter 

For decades, Hollywood has shaped our idea of extra-terrestrial life, feeding into our imagination of an alternate reality – painting them as heroes like in Marvel movies or as our worst nightmares like in Daniel Espinosa’s 2017 film Life. How likely is it that we may come across alien life forms? Celestial bodies like Mars, Europa, and Titan holds great promise that we may discover some semblance of life, past or present.

In this issue, we dive into the field of astrobiology and planetary sciences, exploring the age-old question: are we alone in the Universe? If not, how might life emerge elsewhere in the Cosmos and taking what we know now, where do we go from here? (p.20) Then we have a special contribution by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, astronomer and pioneer of astrobiology, who discusses the Panspermia theory and the role of culture in delaying the acceptance of the theory (p.26).

In Columns, we review the latest human gene therapy trials using adeno-associated viruses as vectors to treat neurodegenerative disorders (p.14).

Next, in Spotlights, we learn more about the potential of bioprinting in personalised medicine with Dr. Riccardo Levato from the University Medical Center Utrecht and Dr. Javier Fernandez from the Singapore University of Technology and Design at a conference hosted by SGInnovate and CATALYST (p.32). We also feature an interview with Dr. Senthil Sockalingam, Head of IQVIA Biotech, JAPAC & Chief Medical Officer, APAC, on its expansion in the Asia-Pacific and how the company’s new innovative approach will utilise data and analytics to accelerate clinical development (p.36).

Finally, in our News section, read about a self-adaptive airflow sensor with potential in wearable electronics (p.6), self-powered diaper sensors (p.51), and a new biosupercapacitor that can detect blood pH levels in real-time (p.63).

Not only has the field of engineering contributed to advancing healthcare, improving diagnoses and the treatment of diseases, the advances in current technology has also allowed us to understand our genetic code, enabling us to manipulate and produce hybrid forms of life. This has caused us to speculate further on the possibility of alternative biochemistries for alien life. While much work remains to be done, every step is a point forward in our quest to understand ourselves and life itself.

Carmen Chan