From pre-clinical to clinical imaging, bioimaging is one of the core capabilities that A*STAR has developed in the last decade. With the global ageing population and increased prevalence of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, metabolic diseases and other age-related diseases, there is a growing demand to advance imaging and diagnostic technologies.
Founded in 2005, the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), aims to advance and apply life-imaging technology to better understand the pathophysiological and biochemical underpinnings of selected diseases aligned to national interests, using pre-clinical models in a translational manner. With the expertise in the development of chemical and biological probes, metabolic phenotyping, optical imaging, multimodal MR imaging and spectroscopy, nano SPECT, micro PET and image processing, SBIC endeavors to become one of the world-leading pre-clinical bioimaging institutes in the region.
SBIC has established two industry facilities namely, SBIC-Nikon Imaging Centre (SBIC-NIC) and SBIC-Bruker Preclinical Imaging Centre (SBIC-Bruker PCI). SBIC-NIC aims to promote innovation and education in advanced light microscopy techniques. The SBIC-Bruker PCI is the first facility of its kind in Asia and second in the world to be opened by Bruker (the other is located in Massachusetts in the U.S.), is equipped with state-of-the-art micro-CT and optical imaging systems, will provide demonstration, training and applications support for Bruker’s preclinical portfolio and multi-modal imaging platforms.
The Clinical Imaging Research Centre (CIRC), a joint venture between A*STAR and the National University of Singapore (NUS), was established to consolidate powerful clinical imaging research capabilities and resources into a comprehensive national platform to catalyse world-class translational clinical research and benefit patients. It is the first in Southeast Asia to use the MR/PET, a highly advanced medical imaging solution combining two powerful imaging techniques to better study disease pathways. With its cyclotron and radiochemistry facilities, CIRC is also the only clinical imaging centre in Singapore with a focus on research that will be able to produce and administer PET radiopharmaceuticals to human subjects. CIRC hopes to be able to perform first-in-man studies in the future and participate in early stage assessment of new molecules. CIRC hosts over 50 clinical research projects with investigators from industry, as well as 11 different institutions throughout Singapore. These projects focus on diseases that are pertinent for Singapore and Asia, so as to better address regional medical needs.
One such example is CIRC’s collaboration with the NUS tuberculosis (TB) research programme (SPRINT-TB) on several projects for the discovery and development of TB imaging biomarkers, so as to more efficiently identify, monitor and treat the disease. CIRC’s novel PET/MR scanner has enabled researchers to conduct more precise examination on TB lesions in the lungs and develop innovative treatment options. For example using CIRC’s PET/CT and novel MR/PET scanners, investigators are exploring how to intercept TB infection early before any conventional clinical signs manifest, minimising its spread and threat to public health.
Biodevices & Diagnostics
A particular strength at the Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology (IBN), Biodevices & Diagnostics is a research area that involves nanotechnology and microfabricated platforms for high-throughput biomarker and drug screening, automated biologics synthesis, and rapid disease diagnosis. The portfolio of innovations includes, amongst others, the miniaturized DropArray for faster drug screening, quantum dots for cell imaging applications, a digital pathology software and a virtual reaction chamber. IBN has left its footprint in the devices and diagnostics market with its technologies being spun out into companies like Curiox Biosystems, HistoIndex, Baldr Biosystems and InvitroCue.
Launched in November 2014, the Diagnostics Development Hub (DxD Hub) is a national initiative led by A*STAR, through its commercialization arm ETPL. It aims to fast track the transformation of the best diagnostic-related IPs globally into clinically validated and “registration-ready” diagnostic devices for adoption by start-ups, SMEs and MNCs. Located in Chromos, Biopolis, DxD Hub has obtained ISO13485 accreditation, signifying the Hub’s ability to develop products that meet customer, industrial and regulatory requirements. DxD Hub has developed a robust and diverse pipeline of projects based on an internally established process for project origination, scoping, evaluation and approval. Efforts are spearheaded by the Strategic Advisory Panel and Hub Evaluation Panel, and the Hub has since commenced project design and development activities for approved projects.