24 March 2004
Singapore Explores Partnership Opportunities With U. S. Biotech Companies
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BOSTON, 23 MARCH 2004 SINGAPORE, 24 MARCH 2004 MEDIA RELEASE Singapore explores partnership opportunities with U. S. biotech companies International Advisors give Singapore Biomedical Sciences roadmap the nod SINGAPORE BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES SEMINAR The Singapore Biomedical Sciences Seminar drew more than 70 biotechnology executives and researchers from the scientific community in Boston. Held on 22 March at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, the seminar showcased Singapore's capabilities in drug discovery and development, clinical trials and biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Targeted at leading US biomedical companies and venture capitalists, the seminar served as a platform to explore partnerships possibilities with Singapore-based biotechnology companies. A*STAR Chairman and Economic Development Board Co-Chairman Mr Philip Yeo shared on the progress of Singapore's Biomedical Sciences initiative and updated that Singapore was on track to hit its target of S$12 billion in manufacturing output by 2005. During the seminar, selected Singapore-based companies also presented on their projects and capabilities. BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL Translating Knowledge Into Medicine Singapore's Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council (IAC) held its 8th meeting in Boston, USA on 23 March. The Council, comprising eminent scientists and experts from around the world, strongly supported Singapore's efforts to further integrate basic and clinical sciences. The blueprint presented to the IAC members today included two new initiatives, which will be rolled out in the second quarter of 2004. Joint National Biomedical Grant Call For the first time, a joint national biomedical grant call will be launched by A*STAR's Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) and the Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council (NMRC). It underlines the move by both Councils to bridge basic sciences with clinical sciences. This joint grant call will also incorporate thematic elements based on areas considered strategic and important to Singapore. Clinician-Scientist Investigatorship Come Q2 2004, clinician scientists in Singapore can look forward to a new research funding scheme supported by the BMRC and NMRC. This is part of Singapore’s overall efforts to build a pool of clinician-scientists who will be able to conduct high quality biomedical research programmes and collaborate with basic scientists from the research institutes. Applicants will be interviewed and assessed by a joint review panel formed by the two Councils. Bioinformatics IAC members were also given a presentation by the Bioinformatics Institute (BII), which is a research institute of the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR). The IAC commended the two-year old research institute for its success in building up a pool of high quality bioinformatics research scientists. BII also provides computational tools to analyse the huge volumes of diverse biomedical data generated by A*STAR's five biomedical research institutes. The IAC panel endorsed BII's plans to build up the following research areas: bioimaging, biomarkers, cheminformatics and inflammation. The research institute will provide measurement and analytical tools to understand and determine the progression of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. Moving forward, BII will continue to build on, and expand its multidisciplinary team of computational chemists, bioinformaticians and other information science specialists. Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman of the Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council and Rector of Imperial College, UK said, "Singapore has made great strides in biomedical sciences at an astonishing pace. Visionary leadership and an excellent unity of purpose where all agencies are at work cohesively and concertedly have been Singapore's core strengths. Translating research discoveries into real therapies will bring Singapore's vision of building a world-class biomedical hub closer to reality." A*STAR-IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON PARTNERSHIP On Feb 20th, A*STAR and Imperial College London signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide training for PhD students. On 22 March, the two partners further sealed their commitment by formally launching the A*STAR-Imperial Partnership (AIP) PhD programme at a simple signing ceremony. The launch of the AIP PhD Programme coincided with the inaugural meeting of the A*STAR Graduate Academy International Advisory Panel, which was also held in Boston. Under the AIP PhD Programme, students can earn a PhD from Imperial College London while based in Singapore. During the programme, which will be administered by the A*STAR Graduate Academy as a scholarship scheme, students will undertake research projects at A*STAR research institutes. Upon completion of the PhD programme, they may proceed to UK for a research attachment at Imperial. The first intake of students for the PhD Programme is expected in Academic Year 2004/2005. For media queries, please contact: Ms Yeo Wen Qing, Senior Officer, Corporate Communications, A*STAR DID: 65-6826 6346, Fax: 65-6478 9593 Email: Annex 1 Backgrounder on Singapore's blueprint to integrate basic sciences with clinical sciences: The idea of establishing a strong translational research platform in Singapore was first mooted last year when the concept of Centre for Molecular Medicine was presented during the 7th International Advisory Council's meeting in October 2003. The panel of experts supported the Biomedical Research Council's proposal to set up the Centre for Molecular Medicine where doctors and researchers can work together in one common facility and pursue research that has major relevance to important clinical problems. The Centre is in the early start-up phase of recruitment. One of its first projects will be a study of stem cells for treatment of neuro-degenerative disorders. Since then, several activities have taken place to promote greater interaction between basic and clinical research scientists. For instance, a series of thematic symposiums aimed at profiling collaborative research work between doctors and researchers have been conducted and lined up for the year. Upcoming symposia will focus on "Immunology", "Tissue Engineering" and "Cancer Research". The Singapore Cancer Syndicate is another strategic initiative to synergise clinical and basic research through the formation of a research consortia between the clinical and basic research communities. Formed in 2002, the Singapore Cancer Syndicate promotes collaboration in cancer biology and scientific discoveries among research groups in Singapore and with the industry. The Biomedical Research Council of A*STAR has also initiated a series of training programmes to nurture and build up a critical mass of clinician scientists. The MBBS-Phd Programme was launched in 2000 by A*STAR in collaboration with the National University of Singapore to spearhead the training of clinician-scientists. To complement the MBBS-PhD programme, A*STAR has established a fellowship programme for clinicians with the aim to advance clinically-relevant basic research in hospitals and disease centres and bridge the gap between basic and clinical research. BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON: AGENCY FOR SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY AND RESEARCH The mission of A*STAR is to foster world class scientific research and develop talent for a vibrant Knowledge-Based Singapore. A*STAR is organized into four arms: two Research Councils, the Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) and the Science & Engineering Research Council (SERC), a Corporate Planning and Administration Division (CPAD) and the agency’s commercialization arm, Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd. The Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) oversees and provides support to public sector biomedical research and development activities in Singapore. The Council also aims to strengthen collaborative public research in the biomedical sciences in Singapore. The Council's objectives are to: • Support, sustain and stimulate excellent research for maintaining and improving human health, • Train people in high quality research skills to meet Singapore's health needs, quality of life and global economic competitiveness • Promote societal awareness of biomedical research For more information on A*STAR, please refer to the website - A*STAR GRADUATE ACADEMY (A*GA) The A*STAR Graduate Academy (A*GA) supports A*STAR's key thrust of human capital development through the promotion of science scholarships and other manpower development programmes and initiatives. A*GA administers the two key scholarship schemes offered by A*STAR - the National Science Scholarships (NSS) and the A*STAR Graduate Scholarships (AGS). The scholarships are open to Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents, and non-Singaporeans who are willing to take up Singapore Citizenship. NATIONAL SCIENCE SCHOLARSHIPS (NSS) National Science Scholarships awarded by A*STAR are research-oriented scholarships that offer graduate, PhD and post-doctoral training leading up to careers in R&D in various fields of Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, at a relevant A*STAR Research Institute. The scholarships available under the NSS scheme are: 1) BS-PhD - Supports undergraduate to doctoral studies at selected overseas universities. 2) MBBS-PhD - Supports the MBBS degree at the National University of Singapore and PhD studies at selected overseas universities. The MBBS-PhD Scholarship aims to develop a pool of clinician scientists who will have the combined expertise of both clinical and basic scientific knowledge. 3) Overseas PhD - Supports doctoral level studies at selected overseas universities. 4) International Fellowship - Supports post-doctoral training at selected overseas universities - Supports a 2-year overseas research fellowship for medical doctors training to become clinician scientists. A*STAR GRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP (AGS) The A*STAR Graduate Scholarship offers PhD training at a relevant A*STAR Research Institute in partnership with our local universities, the National University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological University, or our overseas university counterpart, Imperial College London. PhD training for the scholar usually lasts 3 to 4 years, and is often followed by a 1 to 2 year post-doctoral fellowship at a selected overseas university or research laboratory in the scholar's chosen field. The scheme aims to provide trans-disciplinary, research-intensive training at the PhD level in selected fields of Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering. THE SINGAPORE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BOARD The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) is the lead agency that plans and executes strategies to develop Singapore as a compelling global hub for business and investment. It enables multinational and Singapore-based companies to establish value-creating operations in both the manufacturing and internationally tradeable services sectors. The EDB Biomedical Sciences Group (EDB BMSG) is responsible for the development of the Biomedical Sciences industry. The BMS Group works closely with A*STAR's Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) and other agencies to develop human, intellectual, and industrial capital in Singapore, in support of the Biomedical Sciences industry. For more information, please visit

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