A*STAR and the Australian National University establish immunology research collaboration

A*STAR's Centre for Molecular Medicine (CMM) and The Australian National University's Australian Phenomics Facility (ANU APF) have established an immunology research partnership focusing on autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes.

A Research Collaboration Agreement (RCA) was signed by Associate Professor Kong-Peng Lam, acting executive director of A*STAR's Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) and Professor Ian Chubb AO, Vice Chancellor, ANU today at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at ANU in Canberra, Australia.

The RCA was signed in the presence of Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, who is on an official visit to Australia. The partnership in leading edge biomedical research represents a new milestone in the bilateral relationship Singapore shares with Australia. It will yield new knowledge and understanding in immunology and pave the way for other research collaborations between the two countries.

"This partnership further cements the close collaborative relationship ANU has with Singapore and will enhance research efforts in both countries," Professor Chubb said.

The collaborative research program will focus on understanding the causes and manifestations of Type 1 Diabetes and other autoimmune and immunopathological disorders. It will study the functions of genes and proteins that are involved in immune tolerance and how their dysfunctions could lead to the failure of an individual's immune system to recognise its own cells and tissues and result in immune cells attacking self organs and tissues - a phenomenon known as autoimmune disease. For example, in Type 1 Diabetes, immune cells attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, thereby affecting an individual's ability to regulate blood glucose levels. Other examples of autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

The insight to be gained on the mechanisms leading to autoimmune diseases may enable the identification of predictive or diagnostic markers as well as the development of therapeutics to treat such diseases.

ARC Federation Fellow Professor Chris Goodnow, Chief Scientific Officer of the APF and an expert in the field of immune tolerance, said, "This is an exciting opportunity to bring together world-class expertise in Singapore and Australia, and focus it on cutting-edge problems at the interface between immunology and genomics. The exchange of scientists and skills fostered by this program will deliver great synergies."

Associate Professor Lam, principal coordinator of the Immunology group at CMM, said "Immunology is a critical field for Singapore's push towards biomedical science research as it is closely linked to many clinical conditions such as autoimmune diseases, allergy, infections and cancer. The partnership with ANU will also serve as an important link for the cross-training of students and scientists in Australia and Singapore."

This collaboration culminates from A*STAR Chairman Mr Philip Yeo's visit to Australia last July when the A*STAR delegation visited ANU and several other leading research institutions, including the Garvan Institute in Sydney, Walter Eliza Hall Institute and the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. The bilateral interactions have since intensified with reciprocal visits from ANU, the Howard Florey Institute and the University of Queensland to Singapore to further explore research collaborations and training.

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For more information, please contact:
Ms. Ng Koon Ling Assistant Head, Corporate Communications Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) Tel: ? 6826 6338 Email: ng_koon_ling@a-star.edu.sg
Jane O'Dwyer Media Manager, The Australian National University: Tel: ? 2 5125 5001 ? 416 249 231 Email: jane.odwyer@anu.edu.au

Background Information About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

A*STAR's mission is to foster world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based Singapore. The Agency comprises the Biomedical Research Council (BMRC), the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), the A*STAR Graduate Academy (A*GA), the Corporate Planning and Administration Division (CPAD) and a commercialisation arm, Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ET).

The Biomedical Research Council (BMRC) oversees the development of core research capabilities within A*STAR research units specialising in bioprocessing; chemical synthesis; genomics and proteomics; molecular and cell biology; bioengineering and nanotechnology and computational biology. Through competitive grants, the Council also supports research in the wider scientific community such as public universities and hospitals. As part of its efforts to advance human healthcare, BMRC actively promotes translational medicine and cross-disciplinary research. The Council also engages in human capital development in the biomedical sciences and promotes societal awareness of biomedical research through outreach programmes.

For more information, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg

About The Australian National University

Established sixty years ago to be a national hub of cutting-edge research, the Australian National University is now one of the foremost research universities in the world. Among its world-class facilities are the most powerful computer in Australia, modern laboratories and lecture theatres, two million volumes lining the shelves of several libraries, and access to a comprehensive range of digital information.

Since its foundation, when it comprised four research schools with no students, the Australian National University has attracted leading academics from Australia and around the world. The University now employs some 1,400 academic staff, more than half of whom are full-time researchers.

The University's student body is not large by international standards – it has approximately 13,400 students. Of these, 8,700 are enrolled in undergraduate or non-award courses and more than 4,700 are doing postgraduate study – including around 1,800 students enrolled in PhDs. 15 per cent of students are undertaking research degrees and 35 per cent postgraduate programs – easily the highest proportions of any Australian university. International students account for over 20 per cent of the student population, there being more than 2,800 students from 90 countries.

ANU has close ties with Singapore via the National University of Singapore. The two universities offer joint research intensive undergraduate degrees in Science and Arts, as well as PhD's in Engineering and Physics. The two universities are also part of the 10-member International Alliance of Research Universities.

For more information, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg


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