New Zealand and Singapore set up first joint R&D research fund in heart disease and cancer

Friday 3 October 2008, 3:10PM
By Health Research Council of New Zealand

A groundbreaking new partnership will unite leading scientists from New Zealand and Singapore in the fight against heart disease and cancer.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has teamed up with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), based in Singapore, to launch a new research fund worth NZ$3.6million.

The joint research fund, which will involve HRC and A*STAR investing NZ $1.8m each, is open to researchers from New Zealand and Singapore.

Top scientists from the two countries are meeting in Christchurch next week (October 6-7) at a symposium to discuss collaborative research on heart disease.

This will enable them to share knowledge, skills and resources and aim to make breakthroughs in prevention and treatment.

HRC Chief Executive Dr Robin Olds said: “This is a significant step forward as it opens up doors for leading researchers in New Zealand to work with highly-experienced scientists in Singapore.

“There is a growing demand for more understanding of health issues such as heart disease and cancer in both New Zealand and Singapore.

“It will allow our scientists to share their knowledge with counterparts in Singapore and to access the significant resources of A*STAR.

“Working together will build strong relationships between researchers from both countries that will benefit the global knowledge base and lead to improved health for everyone.

“It is also a valuable opportunity for researchers to tap into new funding.”

Prof Lee Eng Hin, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council, said: “This partnership between A*STAR and New Zealand’s HRC marks a milestone in the growing relationship between the two organisations.

“I am confident that researchers from A*STAR and HRC will be able to tap on one another’s expertise in areas of cardiovascular disease and cancer – which are the two leading causes of death in Singapore, foster deep and abiding ties through the collaborations, and bring about results that will benefit patients, clinicians and researchers.”

Twenty-one top scientists from the two countries will attend next week’s symposium in Christchurch, which will be jointly chaired by Professor Mark Richards (University of Otago) and Professor Judith Swain (Executive Director of A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences in Singapore).

The researchers will highlight key areas of heart disease on which they can work together, prior to the first grant call which is scheduled for May 2009.

The second grant call for research in cancer, scheduled for May 2010, will see experts in the field of cancer research converging on Singapore for a symposium in October 2009, jointly chaired by Professor Peter Lobie (Liggins Institute, Auckland) and Professor Neal Copeland (Executive Director of A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore).

The joint research fund is open to proposals from New Zealand and Singapore-based public research organizations, including universities and institutes supported by HRC and A*STAR. In New Zealand, the fund will also be open to companies doing research including Crown Research Institutes, research associations and private companies. Each application must be made up of at least one principal investigator from Singapore and New Zealand.

The partnership is the first of its kind and is part of the HRC’s work on the International Investment Opportunities Fund (IIOF) objective 2, which is focused on the development of international funding partnerships with other countries to facilitate research programs of joint interest.

About the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC)

The HRC is the Crown agency responsible for the management of the Government’s investment in public good health research. Ownership of the HRC resides with the Minister of Health, with funding being primarily provided from Vote Research, Science and Technology. A Memorandum of Understanding between the two Ministers sets out this relationship.

Established under the Health Research Council Act 1990, the HRC's statutory functions include:
advising the Minister and administering funds in relation to national health research policy
fostering the recruitment, education, training, and retention of those engaged in health research in New Zealand

initiating and supporting health research
undertaking consultation to establish priorities in health research
promoting and disseminating the results of health research to encourage their contribution to health science, policy and delivery

ensuring the development and application of appropriate assessment standards by committees or subcommittees that assess health research proposals.

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

A*STAR is Singapore's lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based Singapore. A*STAR actively nurtures public sector research and development in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, with a particular focus on fields essential to Singapore's manufacturing industry and new growth industries.

It oversees 19 research institutes and consortia and supports extramural research with the universities, hospital research centres and other local and international partners. At the heart of this knowledge intensive work is human capital. Top local and international scientific talent drive knowledge creation at A*STAR research institutes.

The Agency also sends scholars for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training in the best universities, a reflection of the high priority A*STAR places on nurturing the next generation of scientific talent. For more information about A*STAR, please visit .