A BIGHEART for global health
The Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research and Technology (BIGHEART) at NUS hosted its Inaugural Symposium on Healthcare Technology from 19 to 20 June, looking at innovative healthcare technology solutions of the future and providing a conducive environment for budding collaborations in the field.
BIGHEART was established in 2016 and conducts interdisciplinary research to address the technical barriers preventing distributed global healthcare solutions. A scientific ecosystem dedicated to application and translation of research with societal benefits, BIGHEART develops clinically minded scientists and transforms its collaborators in the fields of chemistry, physics, engineering, computer science, medicine, and design throughout the research community in Singapore.
More than 280 delegates from industry, as well as research and medical backgrounds, attended the symposium, which saw Professor Jean Paul Thiery from NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore; Professor Lim Chwee Teck from NUS Engineering and the Mechanobiology Institute; and Professor Liu Xiaogang from NUS Science deliver high calibre talks. The line-up of internationally renowned speakers also included Professors Joanna Aizenberg, David Edwards and David Weitz from Harvard University; Professor Takehiko Kitamori from Tokyo University; Professor Ulf Langdegren from Uppsala University; and Professor Metin Sitti from the Max Plank Institute for Intelligent Systems. The engaging talks covered a range of topics, from microfluidics and paper diagnostics to robotics and tissue engineering solutions.
"It is easy and common to have scientific advancement but it is not so easy, nor common, to produce widespread societal and health impact for humanity. It requires a real discernment of problems on the ground, the conditions and challenges faced by clinicians, policymakers and industry. To gain this understanding requires discussion, collaboration, friendships and an open mind…,” said Professor Luke P Lee, Director of BIGHEART and a renowned pioneer in optofluidics. It is this collaborative mindset that BIGHEART aims to cultivate, he added.
Delivering the plenary address on Accessible Bioanalysis for the Developing World and the Point of Care, Professor George Whitesides from Harvard University outlined the resources required to successfully translate innovative healthcare technology from the bench to widespread use for global health impact.
Each day ended with two showcase talks from BIGHEART principal investigators — Assistant Professor Shao Huilin who spoke on Biosensor Platforms for Molecular Analyses for Circulating Exosomes; Adjunct Assistant Professor Benjamin Tee who spoke on Nature-Inspired Electronic Sensor Skins; Assistant Professor Cheow Lih Feng who spoke on Enabling Single Cell Systems Biology with Multimodal Analysis; and Assistant Professor John Ho who spoke on Wireless Technologies for Bioelectronic Therapies.
For industry practitioners, the symposium envisioned the prospect for Singapore to become a precision medicine manufacturing hub and provided a platform to team up with researchers and clinicians to develop new avenues for healthcare technology.
Clinicians at the event were similarly encouraged to work with researchers to overcome existing obstacles they face in providing effective patient care with the help of new technology solutions.
The symposium also highlighted the huge potential for Singapore to be a world player in healthcare technology — not just biomedical research, but translation and the manufacturing of devices that will have significant societal and economic benefits for the country and a lasting global impact.