S-E Asia's first nanomedicine institute to be 'catalyst for research'

SINGAPORE - A pioneering nanomedicine research institute being set up by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will focus on diabetic, cardiovascular, skin and eye-related diseases.

The institute - the first of its kind in South-east Asia - will devote half of its $60 million funding to research projects, said NTU provost Freddy Boey on Tuesday.

It has also earmarked $20 million for hiring faculty and refurbishing research infrastructure.

The last $10 million will be spent outfitting new facilities of the institute's headquarters in NTU's Clinical Sciences building at Health City Novena, the upcoming health-care complex.

Professor Subbu Venkatraman, the chair of NTU's School of Materials Science and Engineering, will head the institute.

Northwestern University's Professor Chad Mirkin, a nanotechnology expert and member of the US administration's President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, will be chairman of the institute's advisory committee.

Prof Mirkin, who has been collaborating with NTU for seven years, said: "This institute will create a presence that will act as a catalyst to do better research and attract better resources."

"Nanomedicine represents a whole new pipeline of possibilities," he added, noting that it can reduce the development time of drugs, which would in turn cut health-care costs.

Prof Venkatraman said: "Our goal is to accelerate the process of deriving therapeutics for diseases." He added that current nanomedicine tests and studies require about 30 years before the drugs can be used commercially.

Nanomedicine is an emerging field where diseases can be diagnosed and drugs can be delivered to specific cells with nanoparticles - tiny nano-size particles thousands of times smaller than a grain of sand.

The global market value of nanomedicine products is estimated to be US$112 billion (S$139 billion).

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