SINGAPORE: The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Tuesday (Sep 29) launched the Singapore Phenome Centre (SPC), which seeks to have a better understanding of phenomes, and shed light on how these physical and biochemical traits are produced by the interactions between genes and environmental factors.
The S$9 million centre was set up to enhance research capability and explore new synergy for the newly formed NTU Integrated Medical, Biological and Environmental Life Science (NIMBELS) Cluster.
It brings together life sciences expertise from the university's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, School of Biological Sciences, Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering and the NTU Institute of Structural Biology.
With recent studies showing that diseases such as diabetes and cancer are largely influenced by the interactions between genes and environmental factors, SPC seeks to identify how these interactions produce these phenomes, or physical and biochemical traits.
NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson said, “Most research on diabetes for example has been done in Europe or the United States, on Caucasians. But diabetes in an Asian population ... is very different. There is not much data for it, so all the medicines for many diseases is for Western people and not for Asian people, and Singapore today is quite advanced today in research in medicine. So Singapore I think has a fantastic opportunity to elucidate how diseases are developed in an Asian population.”
The centre is already working on several projects, such as identifying the factors contributing to diabetes complications in partnership with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and investigating microbial products from waste water treatment systems with the Public Utilities Board.
"Diabetes is a very varied disease," said Mr James Best, Chair of the SPC. "What it has in common is a high glucose level, but beyond that it’s very different from one individual to another. We think it’s very different in Singapore, even between the different ethnic groups in Singapore, there are differences in diabetes.
"So if we want to treat the cause of the problem and treat people individually, then we have to know a lot more about diabetes than just high blood glucose, because with that more detailed knowledge we will be able to individualise treatment, and that’s our goal."
SPC is one of the two phenome centres in the world, with the first being the Medical Research Council - National Institute for Health Research National Phenome Centre at Imperial College in London.
The centre is supported by UK instrument and software company, Waters Corporation. Currently located at the university’s Research Techno Plaza, it will move to the Experimental Medicine Building by the end of the year.