News Details | 01-Apr-2013

NTU sets up one-stop institute to spur medical inventions

New institute links healthcare clinicians with engineers and scientists to bridge gaps in medical R&D

When researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines work together and exchange ideas, unexpected groundbreaking innovations can emerge. That is what is happening at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where an exciting “artificial liver” platform is being developed that is expected to speed up the development of new drugs, and also help bring down R&D costs.

Having similar properties to the human liver, the man-made platform allows new drugs to be tested for hepatotoxicity, otherwise known as chemical damage to the liver, in the early stages of drug development. Presently, hepatotoxicity is usually discovered only at late stages when it can potentially be fatal and after much time and resources have already been invested. Hence, this emerging technology holds the potential to save human lives as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in drug development costs.

To drive such groundbreaking research, NTU has set up a new interdisciplinary institute which aims to be a hub for engineers, scientists and clinicians to work collaboratively and develop new technologies, providing solutions to important problems in health and medicine.

The new Nanyang Institute of Technology in Health and Medicine (NITHM) is driving research projects between NTU and major healthcare groups and hospitals both locally and internationally, linking up top clinician-scientists and doctors with faculty members across NTU’s colleges, research centres, and schools including Singapore’s latest medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

“NITHM has a three-pronged mission of research, education and innovation. The university-wide institute is geared up to collaborate with industry partners as it strives to create engineering-enabled solutions for medicine, health and healthcare. This will spur the creation and growth of the local medical device industry,” said Professor Carlstedt-Duke, Director of NITHM and a molecular endocrinologist of international repute.

“Creating an effective and well-connected platform for doctors, scientists and engineers to collaborate is crucial for next-generation medical treatments. The best solutions and treatments for patients have been borne out of interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts in recent years.”

The new research institute has eight medically-related focus areas, leveraging existing research strengths of the Colleges of Engineering and Science at NTU. The eight focus areas include:

• Sensing and Diagnostics
• Therapeutic Medical Devices
• Nanomedicine
• Tissue Engineering
• Systems Biology and Medicine
• Medical Imaging and Signal Analysis
• Drug Discovery and Synthetic Biology
• Health Systems Complexity

These eight areas of focus encompass more than 10 key NTU research centres, which have over 200 existing projects in the fields of biomedical technologies, health and medicine.

Assisting Professor Carlstedt-Duke as Deputy Directors are Professor Subbu Venkatraman, a serial inventor for biomedical devices, and Associate Professor Nam-Joon Cho, who is widely recognised for his work in translational and regenerative medicine.

Prof Venkatraman is currently leading the research for a back-of-the-eye treatment which involves the development of small nano-capsules. These nano-capsules hold the drug and slowly diffuse from the front to the back of the eye, while releasing the drug over a long period of time.

Assoc Prof Cho, who is at the forefront of developing new treatments for infectious diseases based on engineering approaches, is spearheading NTU’s efforts to engineer the artificial liver platform for research and clinical use. His international team of researchers, many of whom have been attracted to NTU from leading universities including Harvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon, is working closely with clinicians at Singapore General Hospital and Stanford University to deliver practical solutions to this long-standing medical problem.


New focus on interdisciplinary PhDs

The new institute will also be responsible for training a new generation of scientists and engineers under NTU’s Interdisciplinary Graduate School (IGS). The institute will host the IGS Future Healthcare PhD programme and will accept its first batch of 40 students in 2013.

These PhD students will be conducting biomedical-related research under the institute’s supervision and are required to complete two out of six graduate courses in a second discipline, as compared to a regular PhD student who does all six courses in a single core discipline.

The focus on Future Healthcare is part of NTU’s strategic blueprint, or its Five Peaks of Excellence. The other peaks in which the university aims to make a global mark are: Sustainable Earth; New Media; New Silk Road; Innovation Asia.



Media contact:

Evelyn Choo
Assistant Manager
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 4714

Lester Kok
Assistant Manager
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6804




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