Joint effort to fight infectious diseases

PHOTO: Joint effort to fight infectious diseases

Researchers from Australia and Singapore are joining forces to defeat infectious diseases such as dengue, tuberculosis (TB) and influenza.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) in Singapore and Australia's National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) are granting $4.5 million of funding to five research teams in both countries, the institutes said on Wednesday.

These include scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS), who will research the design of treatments and vaccines for TB.

Another team from NUS will focus on developing improved vaccines against dengue, hand, foot and mouth disease and influenza.

A*Star scientists will try to uncover why dengue affects some more severely than others, and will also work on developing better treatments for drug-resistant influenza viruses.

Australian scientists from the University of Melbourne and The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research will simultaneously focus on the same research areas.

The diseases being researched were identified as threats to public health in the Asia-Pacific region at an A*Star-NHMRC symposium held last year.

Said NHMRC chief executive officer Warwick Anderson: "Infectious diseases affect the health and productivity of hundreds and thousands of people in Australia and around the region each year.

"This collaboration demonstrates Australia's capacity to join other world-leading research bodies and achieve much more than if countries tried to tackle these issues individually."

Added A*Star chairman Lim Chuan Poh: "The theme of infectious diseases is a topical and timely one. Our experience in the past decade with Sars, avian flu and H1N1 has taught us that in an increasingly connected world, understanding and managing emerging infectious diseases are a matter of highest priority for all countries.

"By partnering with our colleagues from Australia, we will be able to develop new approaches to better combat these threats to this region and the world."

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