Growing Neuroscience In Singapore

Neuroscience is one of the most widely supported research areas of modern bioscience. While some of the mysteries about the inner workings of the brain and the nervous system have been answered, many are also yet to be solved. Scientists throughout the world continue to be fascinated by the complexities of neuronal organization and function, as well as the array of neuropathologies responsible for morbidity and mortality in so many people.

Duke-NUS and A*STAR have teamed up to grow neuroscience in Singapore. Professor Dale Purves (center) with some of the NRP Principal Investigators (left to right: Dr. Suresh Jeyaraj Jesuthasan, Associate Professor Lim Kah Leong, Professor Edward Manser and Associate Professor Thomas Leung.

In 2007, Duke-NUS and A*STAR recognized the potential of neuroscience research and the need for Singapore to embrace and participate in its ongoing growth by entering into a Neuroscience Research Partnership (NRP). Its main objective is to facilitate the holistic growth of neuroscience in Singapore, rather than at a single institution.

The issue in Singapore is that neuroscience is under-represented in terms of the number of people involved. "So one rationale [for the partnership] is to enhance the number of quality neuroscientists in Singapore generally,” explained Dale Purves, Professor and Director of the Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS and Executive Director of the A*STAR Duke-NUS Neuroscience Research Partnership.

Duke-NUS Professor Dale Purves, Executive Director of the A*STAR Duke-NUS Neuroscience Research Partnership.

The arrangement will also allow for the more cost-effective sharing of material and intellectual resources, he added. “Combining makes a lot of sense, enhancing the number of people, making the interactions between the two places [Outram campus and Biopolis] more straightforward.” Another goal is also to promote such collaborations with other research institutions and with industry.

The NRP program is focused on basic research in neuroscience with key areas of investigation including the effects of aging, cognitive neuroscience, stem cell brain tumors and cancer, and sleep. These are areas that can have clinical applications that have industry-related impact.

The NRP has a budget that will enable the recruitment of at least two new neuroscientists into the program each year for the next five years. According to Professor Purves, the intention is for these additional neuroscientists to be situated at the Biopolis until, ultimately, there are similar numbers in both sites. “We are looking forward to recruiting,” said Professor Purves. “Whereas the other A*STAR institutes have reached their target level of investigators, we’re still in a growth phase, albeit a modest one.”

(Source: Duke-NUS Vital Science E-Publication November 2010)


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