A*STAR and NUS Launch Joint Centre to Advance Research on Nutrition, Early Development and Metabolic Diseases
S$148 million centre to study the role of nutrition and early development in health and disease in Asia
Singapore, Oct 10, 2013 – (ACN Newswire) – The National University of Singapore (NUS) and A*STAR will be jointly establishing the S$148 million Singapore Centre for Nutritional Sciences, Metabolic Diseases, and Human Development (SiNMeD). This collaboration between the NUS’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM) and A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) is set to become the leading centre in Asia for research in the nexus between nutritional sciences, metabolic diseases and human development.
SiNMeD will focus on fundamental, clinical and translational research to understand the role of nutrition and early development in the onset and progression of obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes. Research on the nutritional needs of Asians is lacking and this will be a special focus of the programme. The key research programmes are in early development which will focus on mother and infant nutrition, growth and developmental epigenetics; nutritional sciences which aim to develop strategies for optimal nutrition; and metabolic diseases which will study obesity and insulin resistance in Asians (Refer to Annex A of full release for details on these research programmes). This is significant to Singapore as it addresses the rising incidence of obesity and diabetes in an Asian context, with up to 25% of the Singapore adult population projected to have type 2 diabetes by 2025.
These research programmes build on existing collaborations, which have already attracted significant investments from major food and nutrition companies who recognise the value of research to develop innovative products for their consumers. SiNMeD’s research programmes will expand on the success of the unique and internationally recognised GUSTO birth cohort study, as well as the EpiGen consortium – an international alliance of the world’s leading epigenetics researchers (Refer to Annex B of full release for more details on the outcomes of past collaborations).
SiNMeD will be the focal point in Singapore for clinicians, scientists and companies to explore research collaborations in nutritional sciences, epigenetics, developmental determinants of chronic diseases and metabolic disease. “This is the time to bring these multidisciplinary and complementary programmes with NUS together under one umbrella. The SiNMeD investigators have demonstrated the ability to work together to garner both peer-reviewed academic support and to partner with industry in collaborative research programmes” says Professor Judith Swain, MD, Executive Director of A*STAR’s SICS and Lien Ying Chow Professor of Medicine at NUS’ YLLSoM.
There is growing interest in how the incidence, progression, and treatment of diseases may be different in Asia, and how Asian preferences and culture influence human development and the maintenance of health throughout life, especially the burning topic of “healthy ageing”. As Singapore has excellent healthcare and research capabilities, and is well positioned to study health and disease in Asian populations, it provides a strong value proposition for companies seeking to develop products for Asia’s diverse populations. Leading nutrition companies like Danone and Abbott have already established research units in Biopolis in Singapore, while others like Nestle have a strong history of research collaborations with A*STAR.
Dr Benjamin Seet, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council said, “SiNMeD’s research will help us to understand how the food we eat can lead to epigenetic changes in our DNA, which will in turn, either protect or predispose us to diseases like obesity and diabetes. This opens up new approaches to prevent and treat these diseases.” He added, “This area of research represents a strategic research thrust for A*STAR and Singapore. If we do this well, it will provide a unique and very competitive platform that will conduct cutting-edge research, as well as serve to strengthen our partnerships with some of the world’s largest nutrition companies.”
SiNMeD will also serve as a focal point for talent development of all levels from undergraduate and graduate students, to post-doctoral and clinical fellows, both locally as well as internationally. SiNMeD will be a magnet for attracting the best young trainees and faculty who are interested in human development, metabolic diseases and nutritional science.
“Our knowledge of how optimal nutrition and lifestyle can delay or prevent disease onset in Asians is sadly lacking. SiNMeD will pool the expertise of NUS and A*STAR to greatly improve our knowledge of this area, to the betterment of society,” said Prof Barry Halliwell, NUS’ Deputy President (Research and Technology) and Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professor.
SiNMeD will be headed by its Founding Director Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng of NUS, who also serves as the Deputy Executive Director of SICS. SiNMeD will be made up of a strong team of clinical and basic scientists from A*STAR and NUS, leveraging on the key capabilities of both institutions (Refer to Annex C of full release for information on SiNMeD’s leadership).
Associate Professor Chong Yap Seng explained how international and local researchers have been brought together to work on this important area in Singapore. He said, “The S$25 million Metabolic Translational and Clinical Research (TCR) Flagship Programme grant awarded by the National Research Foundation in 2008 brought clinical investigators from NUHS, KKH, SGH and TTSH together with researchers from SICS and other A*STAR research institutes. With our partners from the UK and New Zealand in EpiGen, we had the critical mass of talent and resources to compete on the world stage. We have never looked back since.”
Please see the full press release, with Annexes and supporting images, at http://bit.ly/1be7iob
 Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. The new field of epigenetics is showing how your environment and your choices can influence your genetic code – and that of your children.
 A*STAR’s SICS, NUS, University of Southampton, Medical Research Council, Auckland UniServices Limited
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and six consortia & centres, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their immediate vicinity. A*STAR supports Singapore’s key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, and with other local and international partners. For more information about A*STAR, please visit: www.a-star.edu.sg.
About the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS)
Established in 2007, the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) is a research institute within the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and its mission is to develop clinical and translational research programmes in key disease areas.
SICS is distinguished by its focus on clinical sciences and the use of innovative approaches and technologies that enable the efficient and effective study of human health and diseases. The clinical scientists in SICS conduct the full spectrum of “bench to bedside” research activities in metabolic diseases (including diabetes, obesity and insulin resistance), pathways to normal growth and development (including cognitive and behavioural development), and nutritional sciences. The institute aims to attract, train and nurture clinician-scientists and to develop joint programmes with universities, academic medical centres, government hospitals and research institutes. For more information on SICS, please visit: www.sics.a-star.edu.sg.
About National University of Singapore (NUS)
A leading global university centred in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise.
NUS has 16 faculties and schools across three campuses. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.
NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 23 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore’s fifth RCE. NUS shares a close affiliation with 16 national-level research institutes and centres. Research activities are strategic and robust, and NUS is well-known for its research strengths in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences and natural sciences. It also strives to create a supportive and innovative environment to promote creative enterprise within its community. For more information, please visit: www.nus.edu.sg.
About the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM)
Established in 1905, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine was the first institution of higher learning in Singapore and the genesis of what would become the National University of Singapore. The School offers one of the finest undergraduate medical programs in the Asia Pacific region and commands international recognition and respect. The latest university rankings from Quacqarelli Symonds (QS) have again rated the School as Asia’s best for the third consecutive year. Globally, it is now ranked 20th, up one spot from its 2012 ranking.
The School admits 300 students to its medical undergraduate degree programme annually. It strives to fulfill its tripartite mission of providing excellent clinical care, training the next generation of healthcare professionals, and fostering research that will transform the practice of medicine. It plays a pivotal role in producing future leaders in healthcare delivery, discovery and public service as well as in Singapore’s Biomedical Sciences Initiative and Singapore Medicine, an initiative to further develop as a regional medical center.
The School’s 16 departments in the basic sciences and clinical specialties work closely with the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies and the Centre for Biomedical Ethics to ensure that teaching and research are aligned and relevant to Singapore’s healthcare needs. For more information about the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, please visit: http://medicine.nus.edu.sg/corporate/
Ms Vithya Selvam
Corporate Communications Department
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Tel: +65 6826 6291/ 9451 8941
Ms Dawn Sim
NUHS Communications & Development Office
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
National University of Singapore
Tel: +65 6772 3989 / 9230 6006
Ms Moira Khaw
Communications Manager (DevOS)
Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
National University of Singapore
Tel: +65 6601 1954 / 9672 4127
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