Monday, 1 April 2013

New NTU research institute for technology in health and medicine

When researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines work together and exchange ideas, unexpected groundbreaking innovations can emerge. That is what is happening at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where an exciting "artificial liver" platform is being developed that is expected to speed up the development of new drugs, and also help bring down R&D costs.

Having similar properties to the human liver, the man-made platform allows new drugs to be tested for hepatotoxicity, otherwise known as chemical damage to the liver, in the early stages of drug development. Presently, hepatotoxicity is usually discovered only at late stages when it can potentially be fatal and after much time and resources have already been invested. Hence, this emerging technology holds the potential to save human lives as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in drug development costs.

To drive such groundbreaking research, NTU has set up a new interdisciplinary institute which aims to be a hub for engineers, scientists and clinicians to work collaboratively and develop new technologies, providing solutions to important problems in health and medicine.

The new Nanyang Institute of Technology in Health and Medicine (NITHM) is driving research projects between NTU and major healthcare groups and hospitals regenerative medicine.

Prof Venkatraman is currently leading the research for a back-of-the-eye treatment which involves the development of small nano-capsules. These nano-capsules hold the drug and slowly diffuse from the front to the back of the eye, while releasing the drug over a long period of time.

Assoc Prof Cho, who is at the forefront of developing new treatments for infectious diseases based on engineering approaches, is spearheading NTU's efforts to engineer the artificial liver platform for research and clinical use.

His international team of researchers, many of whom have been attracted to NTU from leading universities including Harvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon, is working closely with clinicians at Singapore General Hospital and Stanford University to deliver practical solutions to this long-standing medical problem.