​Dr Thanuja Herath, Research Fellow, National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS), has been awarded the Open Fund Young Individual Research Grant by the National Medical Research Council (NMRC). She is also the first dental scientist in Singapore to receive the grant, which is awarded to new investigators, and supports the conduct of research proposals in basic and translational clinical research that are relevant to human health and wellness. The grant also supports research aimed at causes, consequences, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of human diseases.

Dr Thanuja's research project aims to develop neutrophil-based immune-modulation strategy for bone tissue regeneration. These white blood cells (neutrophils) regulates the body's immune system to support bone tissue regeneration. Mentored by Cl A/Prof Goh Bee Tin, Deputy Director, Research and Education, NDCS, the research team plans to test their strategy by restoring mandible defects in rabbits.

Dr Thanuja is collaborating alongside Prof Teoh Swee Hin from the Nanyang Technological University, Prof Benoit Schaller from the University of Berne, Switzerland and Prof C James Kirkpatrick from the Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany. This project will provide vital clues on how this new strategy can help develop future therapeutics and facilitate Phase 1 clinical trials amongst patients.

“As researchers, it is important for us to persevere and stay focused on pursuing ideas that can benefit our patients and the society. This grant is an important milestone, especially for a young scientist like me, in developing a research career in healthcare. I am extremely honoured to be the first dental scientist to receive this award, and would like to thank Prof Goh and my mentors from the Women in Science Career Advancement Programme (WinS-CAP) for their encouragement," said Dr Thanuja.