Cancer Researchers Receive $500,000 From Anonymous Durian Lovers Group To Conduct Their Research

No fruit splits opinions as much as the humble durian, and it seems that the fruit’s divisive trait shows no signs of improving anytime soon. A study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and Duke-NUS Medical School has become the center of controversy after some Singaporeans felt that too much money and time was spent on a fruit.

If you are wondering just how money much has been spent on this seemingly pointless study, the answer is: $500,000. Yes, according to ST, half a million dollars was donated by a group of anonymous durian lovers, for NCCS Deputy Director Professor Teh Bin Tean and his team to conduct their research.

After spending nearly two years on the study, Prof Teh and his team have managed to map out the entire genetic blueprint of the fruit. But what does this mean for us Singaporeans?

Purpose of the study

Professor Teh Bin Tean shared with CNA that the study stemmed from the curiosity to know what genes causes “the durian’s smell, taste and spiny husk”. His team of five researchers began researching on the plant’s genome in early 2015.

The complicated study required the team to consolidate sequencing data from three different platforms, a feat that has never been done before in the region. Their research revealed that durians have approximately twice (46,000) as many genes as humans (23,000).

With the genetic blueprint, scientists are now one step closer to isolating the individual genes which give the fruit its characteristic traits, such as its high sugar content, spiky thorns, and even distinct pong. The Deputy Director pointed out that the research also sped up the process of creating genetically modified durians, and they could now come within two to three years.

Durian divides opinions once again

While Prof Teh and his team should be commended for their scientific breakthrough, some Singaporeans remained unimpressed that precious time and money was spent on a fruitless cause.


Instead, they felt that the time and money should have been spent on doing what Prof Teh’s team are supposed to do — finding a cure for cancer.

Some even lamented that the funds could have been used to help social causes such as the poor.

But, we felt that the best alternative came from this netizen.

While some Singaporeans complained that the research on durians was a huge waste of resources, others were thankfully less myopic. They argued that the research may yet benefit society in the future and called for patience.

There is a potential

The research opens the possibility that new medicinal values may be found in plants using the new genome mapping process. However, more resources and encouragement must be afforded to the research instead of complaining and waiting for a quick solution.

While Singaporeans continued to debate on the matter, the haters are being a bit unfair by complaining about the waste of funds. After all, the research was funded by a private donation from durian lovers.

Featured image from National Cancer Centre Singapore.