NUS and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 8 May that establishes a working relationship for joint research programmes and cross-institutional collaborations in ageing and neurobiology. The agreement will drive research programmes to improve diagnosis and prevention of age-related neurological diseases.
NUS Deputy President (Research & Technology) Professor Barry Halliwell pointed out that by marrying NUS' strength in basic research and NNI's expertise in translation, "there will be tremendous opportunities to develop things to make people better, to do excellent research.
"It's an opportune time for us to come together, pool our strengths and work together to develop academic programmes and translate them into better clinical care for Singaporean patients with neurological disorders, said NNI Director of Research Professor Tan Eng King, who is also Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore's Deputy Director of the Neuroscience & Behavioral Disorders Program.
NUS Life Sciences Institute Director Professor Peter Little and Prof Tan inked the agreement during the opening ceremony of a symposium jointly hosted by the Singapore Institute for Neurotechnology (SINAPSE) at NUS and NNI – the 2015 SINAPSE-NNI Symposium. The signing was witnessed by Prof Halliwell and NNI Medical Director Associate Professor Ng Wai Hoe.
The MOU formalises existing ties between the two institutions, which have already been working together on several studies.
One of these collaborations explores new treatment modalities and biomarkers for Parkinson's disease. NNI researchers have been allocated laboratory space in the NUS Neurobiology/Ageing Programme, and the joint venture has led to the recent discovery of a probe to detect the disease.
In another project on ageing, Prof Halliwell, a world-renowned expert on the use of antioxidants in biological systems, will work with NNI scientists to evaluate the effect of antioxidants on age-related diseases. Knowledge gained from this research will be used to pioneer therapies to improve the elderly's quality of life.
The research partnership in neurotechnology – medical technologies for neurological conditions – will be stepped up. Both organisations plan to develop commercially viable technologies to improve patient care by leveraging medical expertise and clinical observations of NNI doctors, as well as the scientific and technical knowledge of researchers from SINAPSE.
Among the neurotechnology applications being created is a Virtual Reality Surgery platform to enhance surgical precision and visualisation for neurosurgeons, with the aim of improving patient safety and care outcomes. The use of optogenetics, a technique that controls living brain cells for tumour imaging and the measurement of intracranial pressure, is another area the scientists intend to explore.