Innovators Under 35 Asia Pacific 2018


The 10 outstanding innovators from the region have been chosen. These young innovators are trailblazers in their fields and are leading the next generation of technological breakthroughs. MIT Technology Review will showcase the global winners in the September/October issue and online. The 10 regional honourees will each present a three-minute elevator pitch at EmTech Asia on 30-31 January 2018.

  • Yok Hian Chionh

    Assistant Director

    Tychan Pte Ltd

    Curing Deadly Infections During Outbreaks

    Predictions are not cures. While new technologies allow us to quickly predict and diagnose outbreaks, they do not treat diseases. With epidemics costing the world ~US$60 billion and 17 million deaths annually, timely therapeutic solutions are needed. At Tychan, we established a toolkit of platform technologies to rapidly bring promising therapeutics from bench-to-bedside using integrated analytics, accelerated bio-manufacturing, progressive clinical trial design and evidence-based regulatory frameworks. Through focused R&D and manufacturing preparedness, we demonstrated that fact-driven overhauls of regulatory systems are possible by bringing an anti-Zika therapeutic into phase 1 trials within 12 months of conceptualization - a record for any biologic. Moving forward, we will adapt and evolve our platform to cure other infectious diseases.


    About Yok Hian Chionh

    Yok Hian Chionh believes that the war against infections can be won if we proactively create systems that rapidly design cures, respond to, and treat patients during outbreaks. As a scientist, he discovered fundamental properties of genetic coding that enabled pathogens to survive hostile environments. As a drug developer, he helped bring an anti-Zika therapeutic from bench-to-bedside. And as a maverick, he is exploring radically different science-based regulatory frameworks to expedite regulatory approvals of therapeutics while meeting safety and efficacy requirements. When he is not reading or writing scientific literature, he is probably drinking coffee, putting together balance sheets, or coming up with more crazy ideas.

  • Jiashi Feng

    Assistant Professor

    National University of Singapore

    Dynamic Neural Networks

    We develop the dynamic artificial neural network with brain-alike plasticity. It models process of human brain development. The network architecture can evolve along with receiving new knowledge about the environment - the neural network will grow its size and complexity smoothly to a more sophisticated one to learn, master and integrate new knowledge. The dynamic neural network can identify and prune redundant neurons and connections within them to enhance model compactness, and meanwhile it introduces new neurons and establishes new connections to store new knowledge. It helps AI practitioners get rid of handcrafting network architectures for various applications.


    About Jiashi Feng

    Dr. Jiashi Feng is currently an Assistant Professor with Department of ECE, National University of Singapore. He received his B.E. degree from USTC, China in 2007 and Ph.D. degree from NUS in 2014. He was a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Berkeley from 2014 to 2015. His current research interest focusses on AI, machine learning and computer vision. He has published over 100 research papers in machine learning, deep learning, object recognition and big data analysis. He receives the winner prizes for ILSVRC2017 object localization, MS-Celeb-1M face recognition, and best paper award from TASK-CV with ICCV 2015.

  • Weibo Gao

    Nanyang Assistant Professor, School of Physical and Mathematical Science

    Nanyang Technological University

    Spin-Photon Interface Towards Quantum Network

    We are working on quantum photonics research based on solid state systems such as silicon vacancy in diamond, silicon carbide and 2D materials. Quantum computation provides potential tool to speed up computation speed in a revolutionary way, which can be used in quantum simulation, password deciphering and fast searching algorithm. It is a challenging task to build a quantum computer because we need to operate hundreds of quantum bit in a coherent way. In our work, we try to explore the spin-photon interface towards building a quantum network. The concept is that we first build smaller and simpler chips and connect these chips with photons. This potentially provides a way towards quantum computer building and quantum information processing.


    About Weibo Gao

    Weibo Gao, graduated from University of science and technology of China as bachelor and PhD student. Then he worked in ETH Zurich as postdoc from 2010-2014. Currently he is a Nanyang assistant professor in NTU. His research in quantum information and quantum photonics is published in several world class journals such as Nature, Nature physics, Nature photonics and Nature communications. Previously he has won Marie-Curie Fellowship in European Union, the recipient of National 100 Excellent Doctoral Dissertation Award in China, and Singapore National Research Foundation fellowship awards.

  • Chun-Hao Huang

    Cofounder and CEO


    Merging Functional Genomics and Artificial Intelligence for Disease Detection and Treatment

    Since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2000, scientists have been trying to understand the 20,000 coding genes. However, our knowledge of gene functions and their association with disease is still very limited. To overcome this challenge, I developed a fast and flexible genetically engineered mouse model platform using gene-silencing technology derived from machine learning to systemically dissect gene functions. This allows me to discover the therapeutic strategies for treating liver cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, and develop a unique non-invasive method to detect colorectal cancer.


    About Chun-Hao Huang

    Dr Huang is a Cancer Biologist, Genetic Engineer and AI Entrepreneur. He pioneered the establishment of fast and flexible genetically engineered mouse models using gene silencing and editing technologies, and led the discovery of therapeutic strategies for treating liver cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. He also invented methods to identify disease biomarkers that predict drug responses, and applied machine learning to the study of genes. Dr Huang is UNLEASH Sustainable Development Goals Talent and Winner, Fellow of the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, and received Google Scholarship to attend Singularity University in NASA and co-founded CLINICAI to early detect cancer.

  • Anjali Jaiprakash

    Advance Queensland Research Fellow

    Queensland University of Technology

    Light field retinal diagnostic system to decrease preventable blindness globally.

    80% of eye disease leading to blindness is preventable if monitored regularly and treated in time. The number of people suffering from preventable eye disease worldwide is estimated to be 285 million. These figures suggest, although modern retinal imaging equipment can provide good quality diagnostic images, something is wrong. Many people who suffer sight threatening diseases live outside of major centres and high quality portable, reliable, imaging equipment must be made available to provide treatment. Anjali’s transdisciplinary team has built a new class of retinal imaging device advanced computation light field/plenoptic imaging techniques. This captures both the intensity and the direction of the light rays in a scene. The new device has been named the retinal plenoptoscope. This device will significantly improve the affordability, reliability and portability of retinal imaging while also delivering new diagnostic features; the ability to create 3D views, metric measurement of retinal features and post-acquisition refocussing that no other retinal imaging device offers.


    About Anjali Jaiprakash

    Dr Anjali Jaiprakash is an Advance QLD research fellow at the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision and Queensland University of Technology. She is a Robobiologist with a PhD in Science and a Master’s degree in Biotechnology. RoboHub announced Anjali as one of the world's 25 Women in Robotics you should know about in 2017. Anjali won a 2017 Tall Poppy Science Award aimed to recognise the achievements of Australia’s outstanding scientific researchers and communicators. Anjali was also a finalist at the top 5 under 40 in 2015 (A UNSW and ABC RN initiative) that recognized Australia’s next generation of scientific thinkers. Anjali works at the intersection of medicine, engineering and design, with a transdisciplinary approach to develop medical devices that translate robotic vision into affordable systems that can be used to improve healthcare outcomes. This includes a light field retinal diagnostic system to replace the expensive and complex cameras currently used to detect abnormalities such as glaucoma or macular degeneration and decrease preventable blindness.

  • Bee Luan Khoo

    Senior Post-Doctoral Research Associate

    Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART)

    Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) Cluster Assay for Treatment Evaluation and Patient Prognosis

    Doctors use bioimaging scans and tumour biopsies to monitor disease status. But these methods may not always be sensitive enough for detection. We developed a new technology that could potentially tell doctors in real-time, how well patients are responding to treatment. The technology promotes a culture of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) from blood, under favourable conditions. Positive samples lead to cell clustering behaviour, reflecting poor patient response. This new assay can provide information in two weeks, enabling doctors to quickly intervene and improve therapeutic strategies. The test may also be used to guide the choice of anti-cancer therapy in patients.


    About Bee Luan Khoo

    Dr Bee Luan Khoo is a biomedical scientist focused on innovating microfluidic devices for clinical utility. She leads a research team under the Young Investigator grant award by NMRC to utilise a microfluidic device for cancer management and evaluation, termed as the circulating tumour cell (CTC) Cluster Assay. The CTC Cluster Assay aims to mimic parts of the tumour microenvironment in vitro by integrating a confined fluidic niche using microwells with hypoxia and tumour-associated immune cells. She has also developed microfluidic biochips for isolation of primary cancer cells, diseased blood cells or malaria-infected cells with relevance to early disease detection.

  • Ajay Giri Prakash Kottapalli

    Research Scientist

    Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART)

    Nanosensors Emulating Blind Cave Fishes for New Standards of Care in Biomedical Devices

    Evolving in complex flows that occur in oceans, some of the marine animals have developed unique and fascinating sensing and survival mechanisms. Blind cavefishes, in spite of having no eyes, are able to detect their prey through ‘touch at a distance’ sensing using neuromasts flow sensors on their body. What is fascinating is that these biological neuromast sensors can detect extremely minute flows down to microns per second. An artificial sensory analogue of the same could prove highly beneficial in monitoring drug infusions through intravenous (IV) infusion in hospitals. I have studied the morphology, functionality and sensing principles of the neuromast sensors and developed ultrasensitive artificial nanosensors for flow sensing in Biomedical devices. These sensors are targeted to monitor and improve the standards of care during drug infusions through IV in hospitals.


    About Ajay Prakash Kottapalli

    In 2013, Ajay received his Ph.D from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, along with a Singapore-MIT Alliance Graduate fellowship. Between 2014-2016, he was a Postdoctoral Associate and as Research Scientist at SMART. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, Ajay was a visiting scholar at MIT. He is currently a Project Investigator (PI) for research projects funded by the SMART Innovation Center and the CENSAM Research Initiative. His research focuses on nature-inspired sensor technologies, biomimetic materials, MEMS/NEMS, nanotechnology, biomedical devices etc. In 2016, Ajay founded a startup company called Sensornomics Pte Ltd which envisions to create new standards of care in biomedical devices. He is a young entrepreneur who leads a team of 4 researchers. He has published about 45 peer-reviewed papers, authored 1 book and held patents in sensor technology.

  • Qilin Wang

    ARC DECRA Fellow & Lecturer

    Griffith University

    Transforming Wastewater Treatment Plants into Energy Generating Facilities Using an On-Site Renewable Chemical

    Wastewater treatment is energy-intensive. Although wastewater is rich in energy, the energy recovery from wastewater is currently low. I have developed a technology to increase energy recovery from wastewater by 4-6 times in the form of biogas using a chemical that already exists in the wastewater treatment plant. The implementation of this technology only requires adding a simple mixing tank to the wastewater treatment plant. This technology would transform wastewater treatment plants from large energy consumers into energy generators. The generated energy can be converted to electricity to power the wastewater treatment plants or put into the grid.


    About Qilin Wang

    Dr Qilin Wang is an Australian Research Council (ARC) DECRA Research Fellow & Lecturer at Griffith University in Australia. He received his PhD from The University of Queensland (Dean’s Award) in Australia in 2014. Dr Wang’s research focuses on innovative biotechnologies for maximizing energy recovery/production from wastewater. As a Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI, he has been awarded 7 competitive grants with a total research funding of ~$AUD 3.6 Million from Australian government, State government, industry and university. He has to date published ~ 80 fully refereed journal papers, most of which were published in Q1 Journals.

  • Min Hao Wong

    Candidate for PhD in Chemical Engineering

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Plant Nanobionics

    Plant nanobionics aims to embed non-native functions to plants by interfacing them with specifically designed nanoparticles. I demonstrate that living spinach plants can be engineered to serve as self-powered pre-concentrators and autosamplers of analytes in ambient groundwater and as infrared communication platforms that can send information to a smartphone. This effort is expected to lead to novel tools that will enable the rapid study of plant biology for high-density farming applications, and a suite of novel intellectual property related to drug or food production that can be exported throughout the world.


    About Min Hao Wong

    Min Hao Wong is currently a Chemical Engineering graduate student at MIT. His PhD research involved the development of unique nanosensor applications for agriculture (Nat. Mater. 17) His work has been featured in global media outlets such as FOX, Forbes, TIME, BBC, and CBS. BostInno named his work as one of the top 7 inventions to come out of MIT in 2016. Min Hao is also currently actively running Plantea, a start-up company focused on agricultural nanosensors. He is also the co-president of the South-East Asia Club, vice president of the MIT energy club, and a guest lecturer for 10.585 Engineering Nanotechnology.

  • Wesley Zheng Guangyuan

    Scientist, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering


    High Performance Batteries for Electrification of Transportation

    Electrification is a burgeoning trend that could revolutionize the transportation industries. One major challenge to this development is the requirement for high energy-density battery technology. Since my PhD at Stanford, I have been working on a new battery technology called lithium sulphur battery, which has about 5 times the specific energy as compared to today’s lithium ion batteries. Applications of lithium sulphur batteries include electric vehicles and unmanned aircraft. I am currently working with a battery company to commercialize the lithium sulphur technology and have also started a company to look into its applications in unmanned aerial vehicles.


    About Wesley Zheng Guangyuan

    Dr Zheng is currently a Scientist in A*STAR and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in NUS. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in Chemical Engineering from University of Cambridge, and did his PhD and Postdoc at Stanford University under the tutelage of Prof Yi Cui and Prof Steven Chu, respectively. His research work focused on developing high capacity electrodes for the next-generation lithium batteries. Dr Zheng is a recipient of the Material Research Society Graduate Student Award, and the National Science Scholarship from A*STAR. Dr Zheng also co-founded a venture-backed startup (volans-i) to develop high-payload, long-range delivery drone.