10 NUS projects awarded grants to research healthy ageing

The Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge founded by the US National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is a worldwide initiative to accelerate innovation that improves physical, mental, and social well-being for people as they age.

The Challenge comprises an evidence-based report and a competition which accelerates breakthroughs in health longevity through a series of monetary awards and prizes. In the first round of the competition, the Catalyst Phase, 10 projects from NUS were awarded up to US$50,000 each, to initiate research into bold, innovative ideas that could extend the human healthspan through disease prevention, mobility, functionality, social connectedness and longevity.

10 NUS Awardees

Through their respective projects, the researchers will seek to understand how gene expression patterns and biomarkers, as well as nutrient, protein, molecular and cellular functions, are associated with ageing. The NUS awardees are:

  • Dr Irwin Cheah, NUS Department of Biochemistry
  • Associate Professor Marie-Veronique Clement, NUS Department of Biochemistry
  • Associate Professor Thameem Dheen, NUS Department of Anatomy
  • Professor Roger Foo, NUS Department of Medicine
  • Associate Professor Alfredo Franco-Obregon, iHealthtech
  • Associate Professor Sanjay Khanna, NUS Department of Physiology
  • Assistant Professor Ajay Sriram Mathuru, Yale-NUS
  • Dr Goh Jor Ming, NUS Department of Physiology
  • Assistant Professor Jai S Polepalli, NUS Department of Anatomy
  • Dr Hataitip Tasena, NUS Department of Biochemistry


NUS research pioneering solutions for healthy ageing

Singapore, like much of the world, faces a rapidly ageing population. Globally, increasing life expectancy paired with decreasing birth rates will see the number of elderly exceed the number of children aged below 10, by 2030. This demographic shift will present significant social, economic and health challenges, including decreased workforce, increased pressure on healthcare and social services, and increased economic burdens from the growing costs of elderly healthcare and public services.

Preparing for such an outlook requires societies to seek advancements in research, innovation, and entrepreneurism, particularly in the field of healthy longevity, which encompasses sustained physical, mental, social health and well-being while ageing.

With this in mind, one NUS awardee, Dr Goh Jor Ming, will explore the impact of exercise, and in particular, its frequency, intensity, and duration, on healthspan. Dr Goh, together with Professor Brian Kennedy from NUS Biochemistry and NUS Physiology, and Professor Dean Ho from NUS Biomedical Engineering and the N.1 Institute for Health (N.1), will utilise an artificial intelligence platform known as CURATE.AI, to correlate exercise to treatment efficacy or training-induced adaptations. After each week of exercise, CURATE.AI will optimise the subsequent week’s training session to either increase, maintain or decrease exercise intensity, based on the individual’s maximum oxygen utilisation, heart rate and lactate concentrations during exercise. To maximise public health efforts for primary prevention and healthspan, Dr Goh believes that exercise ought to be personalised. This project aims to encourage people to remain active and engage in regular exercise through routines that are personalised to their physiological characteristics.

Another awardee, Dr Irwin Cheah, will study the association between ergothioneine levels and the onset of age-related disorders, to establish a baseline for healthy levels of ergothioneine in the blood. Dr Kee, together with Dr Feng Lei from NUS Psychological Medicine and Professor Barry Halliwell from NUS Biochemistry, have recently discovered a correlation between decreasing levels of ergothioneine with age and the onset of certain neurodegenerative disorders. They believe that the decline in blood ergothioneine levels may be a contributing factor towards age-related conditions commonly found in the elderly, and will seek to determine the effect of supplemental ergothioneine on preventing or slowing down the onset of these conditions to extend healthy longevity.

From mid-2021, Catalyst Award winners will be able to share their work with policymakers, researchers, potential investors, and fellow innovators from around the world at the annual public Innovator Summit.