SINGAPORE: Two new research programmes costing a combined S$32 million have been launched, one dealing in stratified medicine and the other in rare diseases.
The first, dealing with stratified medicine, would be headed by the Genome Institute of Singapore and will comprise a team of researchers from A*STAR, Singapore General Hospital, National Cancer Centre Singapore, Singapore National Eye Centre and the National University Health Service.
The S$20 million research programme called POLARIS, or Personalised OMIC Lattice for Advanced Research and Improving Stratification, aims to identify new technologies that can predict how patients could better respond to medical treatment.
For instance, lung cancer patients may present similar clinical features but have different responses to the same drug.
With POLARIS, the researchers aim to match the right drug to the right patient.
"By accurately tailoring the patient to the right drug, we can spare patients the cost of the drug that doesn’t work," said Professor Patrick Tan of the Genome Institute of Singapore.
"We can (also) spare patients the toxicities often associated with these drugs, and by treating the right disease with the right drug early on, we can prevent the disease from progressing further," he added.
The integrated programme involving scientists and clinicians will also enable collaborations with pharmaceutical companies to design clinical trials and develop products for Asian patients.
The second programme, dubbed the Genetic Orphan Diseases Programme, will study rare genetic diseases to get a better understanding of common diseases.
"Recently we discovered that rare diseases causing lesions on the palms and the soles and it affects very few people in the world," said Dr Bruno Reversade, senior principal investigator at A*STAR.
"But yet it relates to common warts that are seen through HPV (Human papillomavirus) infection. So understanding what the genetic predisposition in these people is would probably allow us to understand what the HPV virus uses to cause those lesions in normal people".
Citing another example, Dr Reversade explained that to understand ageing, researchers could study people who have genetic diseases which cause them to age much faster or age much slower, saying that these rare diseases will explain how people age in general.
The S$12 million study will bio—bank cells from patients with rare diseases and their unaffected relatives. Genes for the diseases can then be identified through next generation sequencing, a highly sensitive tool that detects differences in genes on a genome—wide scale.
Both programmes are funded by A*STAR’s Strategic Positioning Fund and are two of eight projects announced at this year’s Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council meeting on Friday.
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