Bioactive Compound Screening Group
School of Chemical & Life Sciences

SCL staff scientists have established a reliable and comprehensive screening programme for the isolation of bioactives from natural products such as fungi, microbes and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). We have established in-house a variety of screens for novel anti-microbials, anti-cancer compounds and even stem cell modulators. The school has capabilities across the entire value chain for the screening of bioactives from extract preparation and fractionation to individual compound isolation and structure elucidation.

SCL has also assembled a comprehensive collection of fungi with bioactive properties from Singapore’s parks and nature reserves. This collection has proven to be a valuable resource for bioprospecting and has yielded several lead compounds with potent anti-microbial and anti-cancer activity.

SCL staff scientists and final year project students have also co-developed a proprietary Red Yeast Rice (RYR) extraction process with Eu Yan Sang Pte Ltd that reduces compounds within RYR which may give rise to “herbal-drug” interactions when western medications are concurrently taken with RYR. The end result is a safer and healthier RYR dietary supplement which lowers blood cholesterol levels.

Partner: Eu Yan Sang Pte Ltd

More recently, we have discovered of class of small molecules which are selectively cytotoxic to pluripotent stem cells. These molecules may help prevent stem cell tumor formation and enable safer stem cell therapies in the future.

Collaborative Laboratory for Red Yeast Rice & Traditional Chinese Medicine Research

A patent has been filed for this innovation and a publication accepted in an international referred journal.

Stem Cell Cytotoxic Small Molecules

Fungal Collection

Fungi A against Phytophthora after 12 days: 80% retardation rate

Fungi B against Pestalotiopsis after 7 days: 70% retardation rate

Spore Prints

  • Harvesting
  • Freeze Drying
  • Methanol Extraction
  • Drying down of extracts

Pure Cultures

Representative Publications

  1. A new class of pluripotent stem cell cytotoxic molecules (2013). Richards MPhoon CW, Seng EK, Guo XM, Tam MF, Lee MK , Chan WK . Accepted in PLOS ONE.
  2. Assessment of extracts from red yeast rice for herb-drug interaction by in-vitro and in-vivo assays. Fung WT, Subramaniam G, Lee J, Loh HM, Leung PH. Sci Rep. 2012;2:298. doi: 10.1038/srep00298. Epub 2012 Mar 2.
  3. Richards M, Fong CY, Chan WK, Wong PC, Bongso A. (2002). Human feeders support prolonged undifferentiated growth of human inner cell masses and embryonic stem cells. Nat Biotechnol. 20: 933-6.
  4. Richards M, Tan SP, Tan JH, Chan WK and Bongso A. (2004). The transcriptome profile of human embryonic stem cells as defined by SAGE. Stem Cells 22: 51-64

Competitive Grants

  1. Small Molecules for Stem Cell Differentiation & Dedifferentiation (MOE-TIF)
  2. Nanotoxicology - Health and Safety Screening (MOE-TIF)
  3. Characteization, profiling and rapid validation of Geuniue edible bird's nest and TCM herbs (NYP CDP)


  1. Stem cell cytotoxic small molecules (PCT/SG2013/000066)
  2. Anti-ageing molecules (SG Patent application)
  3. Novel antioxidants (UK Patent Application)


Ms Vicky Wong, Dr Jeffery Seng Eng Khuan, Dr Subramaniam Gurusamy, Ms Nilar Zhang, Dr Phoon Chee Wee, Dr Guo Xu Ming, Dr Mark Richards, Dr Henry Leung