Academic Profile : Faculty

Assoc Prof Tan Boon Huan_2.jpg picture
Assoc Prof Tan Boon Huan
Associate Professor (Practice), Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine
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Associate Professor Tan Boon Huan is a senior virologist with the Respiratory and Infectious Disease Program, where she teaches Virology and Biosafety. She holds a co-appointment as Distinguished Scientist with DSO National Laboratories, serving as senior advisor. Associate Professor Tan also holds a visiting scientist appointment with the National Centre of Infectious Disease (NCID).

Associate Professor Tan was awarded the university research scholarship in 1990 to pursue her PhD in Dengue virus replication at the National University of Singapore. She graduated in 1996 and went overseas to complete 2 post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Oxford and University of Birmingham, UK.

She started her career in Defence Science in 2000 and today, has accumulated more than 20 years of experience with the defence ecosystem in Singapore. Among past positions held, she was the Director of Biological Defence Program between 2014 to 2021 where she was responsible for the management of R& D activities, and developed technical competencies to handle a range of high-risk high-consequence pathogens. This role also included the management of accredited BSL2 laboratories, BSL3 and ABSL3 laboratories, as well as staff management. Between 2019 to 2021, she was the chair of DSO Institutional Biosafety Committee, where she ensured compliance to biosafety and biosecurity practices for DSO, achieving zero accidents.

Associate Professor Tan has received several awards in recognition of her technical expertise; the latest being the Defence Technology Prize in 2020, the most prestigious award accorded by the Defence Minister. Most recently in 2022, she was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) for her leadership role in response to the COVID crisis.
Associate Professor Tan has more than 30 years of experience researching on small RNA viruses and large DNA viruses. She was the Principal Investigator of several completed projects for the Ministry of Defence and the Singapore Armed Forces, and collaborates extensively with the hospitals and other government agencies.

Associate Professor Tan’s current interests range from method development in broad-based virus diagnotics to understanding the transmission of emerging viruses in appropriate in vitro disease model. She uses a system biology approach in her work, employing a range of expertise ranging from conventional virology to cell biology and molecular biology. She also collaborates with scientists from other areas of expertise, namely biochemistry, data science and bioinformatics. Understanding virus biology would allow better infection control measures to be derived, and better antiviral strategies to be designed.

Currently she works mainly with pediatric viruses [Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Human Metapneumovirus], zoonotic viruses [Avian Influenza Virus, Encephalomyocarditis Virus] and emerging viruses classified as risk group 3 (SARs-CoV-2 virus and Monkeypox virus). She aims to investigate the functions of viral proteins involved in transmission. In the case of high-risk viruses, she collaborates with NCID in characterizing monkeypox viruses and drug-resistance SARs-CoV-2 variants.

Associate Professor Tan welcomes students who wishes to have first-hand experience working with live viruses to train with her. She also welcomes discussion on proposed projects for postgraduates and post-doctorates, and also happy to explore collaboration with faculty colleagues, especially from different disciplines.
2022 - Public Administration Medal (Bronze) for her leadership role to the COVID crisis.
2021- Public Transformation Award for Direct Diagnostic PCR Assay for COVID-19
2020 – Defence Technology Prize by Ministry of Defence for Development of Biodefence capability
2018 – Long Service Award by Ministry of Health for contributions to National Biosafety Committee
2003 – Courage Medal, Appreciation Award by Ministry of Health for efforts against SARS
2003 – Appreciation Award, by Ministry of Defence for efforts against SARS
Fellowships & Other Recognition
1. Visiting Scientist to Infectious Disease Research Laboratory, NCID
Courses Taught
MD7107 – Working with Risk Group 3 bioagents
MD9107 – Technology Preparedness and Lab Response for the COVID-19 Pandemic
MD9107 – Vaccines for flaviviruses
BS2015, BS4006, BS2008 - Virus Diagnostics and Detection
BS4016 – Viruses in BioDefense Industry
BS0001 – History of Biological Warfare
BS0001– Biological Defense and pandemics as a global threat
MS811 – Introduction to Biological Defence
MS811- Biological Sensors
Supervision of PhD Students
Graduated 6 PhD students from NTU. Co-supervised as industrial supervisor :
1. Patricia Minyt (2016) - Functional characterisation of polymerase proteins in influenza virus
2. Chen Hui (2014) - The use of bioinformatics in microarray diagnosis
3. Jumat Muhammed Raihan (2014) - Characterisation of influenza B viruses from Singapore
4. Liat-Hui Loo (2011) - Expression of human metapneumovirus genes as diagnostic antigens
5. Richard Sutejo (2010) - Host-pathogen interaction in avian influenza viruses
6. Su-Yin Yeo (2009) - The use of SiRNA as an antiviral therapy for avian influenza viruses

Graduated 1 PhD student from NUS. Co-supervised as industrial supervisor :
1. Ramandeep Virk (2015) - Surveillance of influenza A viruses in a student cohort

Member of Thesis Advisory Committee for 3 PhD students
1. Charles Tiu Kevin Dee – current - Development of an immunoassay to detect the presence of encephalitic viruses
2. Jonathan Lumen Shao Wei Chua – 2019 - Approaches to Syndromic Surveillance for gastrointestinal infections
3. Gao Xiong – 2015 - Screening of influenza mutations using MALDI mass spectrometry