Singhealth and A*STAR Establish S$8 Million Partnership to Co-develop Healthcare Innovations and Translate Research From Bench to Bedside

First project to be supported under the partnership looks at facilitating early detection of ocular surface diseases for better clinical outcomes

Singapore, 11 April 2023 – SingHealth and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) today announced a Healthcare Translation Partnership (HTP) to accelerate the translation, deployment and commercialisation of healthcare research and innovation projects for better patient care. The partnership, which will provide S$8 million in funding support for projects, focuses on three healthcare innovation areas - (i) Medical Technology, (ii) Data Science, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Health, and (iii) Health Services Innovation.

2. Research and the use of advanced and emerging technologies are critical to meet increasing healthcare demands, and ensure that healthcare remains sustainable for the future. However, it can be challenging to translate upstream scientific discoveries and innovative ideas in the lab into downstream, practical solutions that can be applied in clinical settings. Often, the challenges lie in the processes for validation, productisation, and adoption of research and innovation initiatives, such as for new medical devices or diagnostic and treatment tools.

3. The HTP aims to address this by establishing a framework and consolidating resources and support systems to facilitate joint projects between the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre (AMC) and A*STAR. For example, there will be a dedicated partnership office which will coordinate and address the translation challenges holistically. The HTP will also build important bridges between experts in the three healthcare innovation focus areas, enabling clinicians, healthcare innovators, researchers and industry partners to collaborate and accelerate the research translation process. In the longer term, the HTP will set the stage for a more vibrant healthcare innovation ecosystem and nurture a pipeline of innovators to address evolving challenges in care delivery.

Using Terahertz Technology for Evaluation of Ocular Surface Diseases

4. Ocular surface disease (OSD) is a priority eye condition highlighted by the World Health Organization1 . However, currently there are no clinical devices to evaluate disease severity directly and objectively, or track disease progression and ocular surface dynamics.

5. To address this, a team of clinician innovators and healthcare researchers from SingHealth’s Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) as well as A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) are studying the use of a Terahertz imaging system on the ocular surface to objectively and efficiently evaluate OSD. The project, THEA (Terahertz High Definition Eye Analysis), will receive support under the SingHealth-A*STAR HTP to refine the project prototype and catalyse the process of bringing the product and technology to market. Please refer to Annex A for more information on THEA.

Boosting AI Collaborations to Improve Ophthalmological Care

6. Building upon the longstanding partnership between both parties in the digital health space, SERI and A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) have partnered to establish the SERI-IHPC Joint Lab to drive AI research and adoption of digital technologies in eye care. It will also support the development of digital infrastructure that supports and promotes enterprise AI in healthcare, including a clinical and technical AI sandbox to enable AI model training and testing between SingHealth, A*STAR and other industry partners. This will advance the research and development of AI solutions that aim to improve ophthalmological care for patients. Please refer to Annex B for an example of a SERI-IHPC digital ophthalmology solution that leverages machine learning to triage eye patients, assist primary care doctors in making diagnoses as well as assess the need and level of urgency for an eye specialist referral. The team aims to produce more of such innovative solutions to benefit patients.

7. Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth, said, “Research and innovation not only enable us to push the boundaries of medicine, they drive improvements through the development of novel medical devices, digital solutions for diagnosis and treatment, and health services innovations that optimise clinical operations and enhance value-driven care. The SingHealth-A*STAR HTP synergises SingHealth’s strengths in clinical care and healthcare innovation and A*STAR’s expertise in science and technology to catalyse the development of new solutions through research and innovation, and empower healthcare researchers and innovators to better leverage emerging technologies that will bring about better care outcomes for our patients and the population.”

8. Mr Frederick Chew, Chief Executive Officer, A*STAR said, “Technological developments are rapidly advancing, especially in areas such as AI, bioinfanneormatics, high performance computing and medical technologies. SingHealth and A*STAR have complementary strengths. Through the SingHealth-A*STAR HTP, we aim to spur the translation of research and innovation initiatives into impactful medical solutions that improve healthcare delivery, benefit patients, better support healthcare workers and benefit the economy.”

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About Singapore Health Services (SingHealth)

SingHealth, Singapore’s largest public healthcare cluster, is committed to providing affordable, accessible and quality healthcare to patients. With a network of acute hospitals, national specialty centres, polyclinics and community hospitals offering over 40 clinical specialties, it delivers comprehensive, multi-disciplinary and integrated care. Beyond hospital walls, SingHealth partners community care providers to enable the population to keep well, get well and live well. As part of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, SingHealth also focuses on advancing education and research to continuously improve care outcomes for patients. For more information, please visit: www.singhealth.com.sg

Members of the SingHealth group

Hospitals (Tertiary Specialty Care):
Singapore General Hospital, Changi General Hospital, Sengkang General Hospital and KK Women's and Children's Hospital

National Specialty Centres (Tertiary Specialty Care):
National Cancer Centre Singapore, National Dental Centre Singapore, National Heart Centre Singapore, National Neuroscience Institute, and Singapore National Eye Centre

SingHealth Polyclinics (Primary Care):
Bedok, Bukit Merah, Marine Parade, Outram, Pasir Ris, Punggol, Sengkang, Tampines, Eunos, Tampines North (expected completion: 2023) and Kaki Bukit (expected completion: 2025)

SingHealth Community Hospitals (Intermediate and Long-term Care):
Bright Vision Hospital, Sengkang Community Hospital, and Outram Community Hospital

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector R&D agency. Through open innovation, we collaborate with our partners in both the public and private sectors to benefit the economy and society. As a Science and Technology Organisation, A*STAR bridges the gap between academia and industry. Our research creates economic growth and jobs for Singapore, and enhances lives by improving societal outcomes in healthcare, urban living, and sustainability. A*STAR plays a key role in nurturing scientific talent and leaders for the wider research community and industry. A*STAR’s R&D activities span biomedical sciences to physical sciences and engineering, with research entities primarily located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis.