Key members of the research collaboration: (from left) Prof Roger Foo (Programme Director, ATTRaCT, and Senior Group Leader, GIS), Dr Karin Conde-Knape (Senior Vice President, Global Drug Discovery, Novo Nordisk), Dr Rasmus Rabøl (Corporate Vice President, Global Translation, Novo Nordisk), Dr Natasha Michaelsen (Principal Scientist, Global Translation, Novo Nordisk), Prof Mark Richards (Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute, NUS, and Deputy Director, National University Heart Centre), Prof Derek Hausenloy (Research Director, Senior Consultant, NHCS), Prof Carolyn Lam (Senior Consultant Cardiologist, NHCS)(not pictured), and Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh (Executive Director, BII)(not pictured).
SINGAPORE – The Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Bioinformatics Institute (BII), as well as the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), National University of Singapore (NUS), and pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk have signed an agreement to study the mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease progression—especially the condition called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).
Heart disease is a major cause of death globally and in Singapore. While HFpEF is a growing public health concern, particularly as a cause for serious debility in the growing elderly population in Singapore, therapies to improve patient outcomes are still lacking. Moreover, compared to Western populations, Asians have a younger age of onset of heart failure. The research collaboration is focused on understanding the underlying biology of HFpEF patients in Asia, and carrying out comprehensive studies of biomarkers that lead to the segmentation of these patients based on their pathologies, and in order to advance the development of therapeutics for heart failure.
The project leverages large and well-phenotyped heart failure patient cohorts from the Asian neTwork for Translational Research and Cardiovascular Trials (ATTRaCT), a translational cardiovascular research programme led by A*STAR that integrates efforts from basic, translational, and clinical scientists from multiple institutes across Singapore.
Specifically, the project will support the integration of clinical imaging, as well as molecular biological and clinical phenotypes; and advance the development of novel treatments for heart failure.
GIS and NHCS are carrying out cellular studies to dissect mechanisms of disease using patient specific cells, while NUS runs additional complex proteomic analysis on ATTRaCT patient biosamples. BII serves as the data custodian for the aggregated ATTRaCT datasets from across the multiple institutions, offering project parties access and analysis of the multiple data types. This includes the provision of computing requirements to both industry and academic researchers, and the administrative role of ensuring proper governance over data usage.
Prof Roger Foo, Programme Leader of ATTRaCT, Senior Group Leader of the Laboratory of Molecular Epigenomics and Chromatin Organisation at A*STAR’s GIS, and Director of the Cardiovascular Disease Translational Research Programme at NUS Medicine, said, “We are honoured to be part of the collaboration that will build upon the multi-disciplinary efforts of scientists from A*STAR and NUS, as well as contributions by physicians from Singapore hospitals. Findings from the collaboration will provide informative insights into the genetic and cellular biomarkers associated with HFpEF, and support the development of novel diagnostic tools to target therapies for Asian patients with cardiovascular disease. Research on HFpEF is urgently needed as it is a condition of growing public health importance, and yet, to date, there are no effective therapies.”
Prof Carolyn Lam, Founding Programme Leader of ATTRaCT and Senior Consultant from Department of Cardiology at NHCS, said, “Through partnership across top clinical and research institutions in Singapore, ATTRaCT described a novel lean diabetic phenotype of HFpEF, unique to our Asian region. We are now very excited to deepen our understanding of the disease and develop potential new treatments for our patients.”
Prof Mark Richards, Director at the NUS’ Cardiovascular Research Institute said “This partnership allows sophisticated deep exploration of blood signals in heart failure. It opens doors to new methods of detecting and understanding this common and dangerous condition with the prospect of new tests and new treatments benefitting Singapore from both health and economic viewpoints.”
Dr Karin Conde-Knape, Senior Vice President at Novo Nordisk said, “We are excited about this new collaboration. In Novo Nordisk, we are always looking to partner up with the best in the world and we believe that collaborating with leading research centres in Singapore will help us identify new therapeutic targets and biomarkers to address unmet medical need within cardiovascular disease to the benefit of patients worldwide.”
The ATTRaCT programme was established in 2015 as a clinical research programme to understand the pathophysiology of heart failure in the Asian context, and to uncover novel therapeutic and diagnostic opportunities. It brought together five A*STAR research institutes, the National University of Singapore, and six hospitals from National University Health System (NUHS), SingHealth, and National Healthcare Group (NHG) to create an integrated biobank and database to enable further research.
Read more: https://www.a-star.edu.sg/attract/home
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About A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS)
The Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) is an institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). It has a global vision that seeks to use genomic sciences to achieve extraordinary improvements in human health and public prosperity. Established in 2000 as a centre for genomic discovery, the GIS pursues the integration of technology, genetics and biology towards academic, economic and societal impact, with a mission to "read, reveal and write DNA for a better Singapore and world".
Key research areas at the GIS include Precision Medicine & Population Genomics, Genome Informatics, Spatial & Single Cell Systems, Epigenetic & Epitranscriptomic Regulation, Genome Architecture & Design, and Sequencing Platforms. The genomics infrastructure at the GIS is also utilised to train new scientific talent, to function as a bridge for academic and industrial research, and to explore scientific questions of high impact. For more information about GIS, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg/gis.
About A*STAR’s Bioinformatics Institute (BII)
The Bioinformatics Institute (BII) is dedicated to computational biology/bioinformatics driven life science research aimed at the discovery of biomolecular mechanisms guiding biological phenomena. The final goals are scientific advancement leading to economic and societal impact for Singapore. BII covers everything from enterprise-grade secure clinical data hosting to state-of-the-art analysis and new method development. Education of students and young scientists is facilitated by their active involvement in ongoing research projects supervised by international faculty. Sophisticated theoretical and computational approaches including artificial intelligence are applied to analyze all sorts of biological and clinical data, mainly omics data (biomolecular sequences, expression profiles, epigenetics data), 3D structures of macromolecules and biological as well as medical cellular, tissue and macroscopic images from local and international academic, hospital and industry collaborators, public resources and from own experiments. Applied research diversifies into infectious diseases, digital pathology, precision medicine, cancer research, drug discovery, etc. Our winning strategy is: "We add value to biomedical data". For more information on BII, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg/bii
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
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. For ongoing news, visit www.a-star.edu.sg.
About the National University of Singapore (NUS)
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university, which offers a global approach to education, research and entrepreneurship, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise. We have 17 faculties across three campuses in Singapore, with more than 40,000 students from 100 countries enriching our vibrant and diverse campus community. We have also established our NUS Overseas Colleges programme in more than 15 cities around the world.
Our multidisciplinary and real-world approach to education, research and entrepreneurship enables us to work closely with industry, governments and academia to address crucial and complex issues relevant to Asia and the world. Researchers in our faculties, 30 university level research institutes, research centres of excellence and corporate labs focus on themes that include energy; environmental and urban sustainability; treatment and prevention of diseases; active ageing; advanced materials; risk management and resilience of financial systems; Asian studies; and Smart Nation capabilities such as artificial intelligence, data science, operations research and cybersecurity.
About the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine)
The NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine is Singapore’s first and largest medical school. Our enduring mission centres on nurturing highly competent, values-driven and inspired healthcare professionals to transform the practice of medicine and improve health around the world.
Through a dynamic and future-oriented five-year curriculum that is inter-disciplinary and inter-professional in nature, our students undergo a holistic learning experience that exposes them to multiple facets of healthcare and prepares them to become visionary leaders and compassionate doctors and nurses of tomorrow. Since the School’s founding in 1905, more than 12,000 graduates have passed through our doors.
In our pursuit of health for all, our strategic research programmes focus on innovative, cutting-edge biomedical research with collaborators around the world to deliver high impact solutions to benefit human lives.
The School is the oldest institution of higher learning in the National University of Singapore and a founding institutional member of the National University Health System. It is one of the leading medical schools in Asia and ranks among the best in the world (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022 by subject and the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by subject 2022).
For more information about NUS Medicine, please visit https://medicine.nus.edu.sg/
About Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI)
CVRI is a cardiovascular research-dedicated institute affiliated to both NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the National University Heart Centre, Singapore. It has particular strengths in both myocardial and vascular biology; biomarker discovery and development; cardiovascular epigenetics; small and large animal models of cardiovascular disease; and clinical cohort studies in heart failure, coronary artery disease and heart valve disease. CVRI has collaborative links to multiple centres across Singapore and internationally.
About Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk is a leading global healthcare company, founded in 1923 and headquartered in Denmark. Our purpose is to drive change to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases such as obesity and rare blood and endocrine disorders. We do so by pioneering scientific breakthroughs, expanding access to our medicines, and working to prevent and ultimately cure disease. Novo Nordisk employs about 47,800 people in 80 countries and markets its products in around 170 countries. For more information, visit novonordisk.com
About the National Heart Centre Singapore
The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member institution of SingHealth Group, is a 185-bed national and regional referral centre for cardiovascular diseases. NHCS provides a one-stop comprehensive cardiac care ranging from preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic to rehabilitative services.
Established in 1998, NHCS is the pioneer in cardiovascular care in Singapore. It is also the only heart and lung transplantation centre in Singapore. Its clinical outcomes for heart attack treatment, balloon angioplasty with stenting and coronary bypass surgery have been shown to be equivalent to international benchmarks. For more information, please visit www.nhcs.com.sg.