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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
3-Nov-2009

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Contact: Elena Tan
elenatan@ibn.a-star.edu.sg
65-6824-7032

Laura Lau
sslau@ibn.a-star.edu.sg
65-6824-7040

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

Singapore's IBN and NUH to test cutting-edge materials to treat eye diseases

World's first photochromic contact lens that darken with sunlight exposure among Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology advances

Marking a significant bench to bedside research milestone in Singapore, the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), the world's first bioengineering and nanotechnology research institute, and the National University Hospital (NUH) launched the IBN iCare and the NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis at an official opening ceremony officiated by the Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education, S. Iswaran, at the Biopolis on Nov. 3, 2009.

Collaborations between researchers and clinicians are critical to speed up the translation of basic scientific discoveries into clinical applications, and develop new medical products and treatments. IBN iCare is the first research laboratory in Singapore to focus on the development of cutting-edge nanomaterials for ocular therapy.

The NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis will provide a clinical research environment that facilitates the development of new materials and techniques for ophthalmology practice. IBN's nanostructured ocular materials will undergo clinical trials at the NUH Eye Centre prior to commercial applications.

Since 2003, IBN has been revolutionizing medical treatment with sophisticated biomaterials and systems for delivering therapeutics to diseased cells and organs. This key research thrust at IBN has led to the synthesis of a novel drug-loaded contact lens that can deliver medication more effectively than eye drops for the treatment of eye diseases such as glaucoma. The latest ocular research invention created by IBN is the world's first photochromic contact lens that will darken upon exposure to sunlight to protect the eyes against harmful ultraviolet radiation and glare. The lenses will conveniently adapt to changes in light and provide optimal indoor and outdoor vision.

"IBN's mission is to conduct strategic research that addresses important biomedical problems through novel technology platforms that present major commercial potential. The launch of IBN iCare and our collaboration with NUH symbolize our commitment towards establishing Singapore as an international, world class biomedical hub. By bridging the gap from bench to bedside, we are well positioned to facilitate the commercialization of our research innovations," said Professor Jackie Y. Ying, IBN Founding Executive Director.

Recognizing the commercial potential of IBN's ocular biomaterials, Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL), the strategic marketing and commercialization arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), provided a S$5 million Flagship Fund to set up IBN iCare. IBN iCare will accelerate the translation of strategic research in vision care to viable medical products and treatments. Its mission is to incubate start-up companies in vision care, and attract more global partners to Singapore to create a major commercial impact on myopia and vision impairment treatment.

Boon Swan Foo, Executive Chairman of Exploit Technologies, said, "Exploit Technologies is pleased to have partnered IBN and NUH in building this tripartite commercialisation effort. The bringing together of clinicians with scientists and commercial people to this juncture is due to the unrelenting effort of the key players, including Dr. Muhammad Tani, Professor Jackie Ying and Associate Professor Paul Chew who have worked hard to overcome obstacles along the way. Our team started to work on the project since 2005; it was a time when the market was not ready for adoption of the drug eluting nanoporous contact lens technology. We ploughed the market, evolved our marketing strategies, and essentially created a market when there was none. Through our efforts, the technology was licensed to a MNC in 2006, with a contract value of more than S$100 million. To further exploit the technology's commercial potential, we held discussions with clinicians and industry players to find out other potential applications; and the idea of the NUH Eye Centre was born in 2007. To ensure the success of this meaningful project, Exploit Technologies launched a Flagship project, coupled with an S$5 million funding, to help set up IBN iCare and NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis.

"Today, we see the fruits of our labour. I am delighted that big players like SAF and Carl Zeiss are partnering us in the effort to take R&D from the lab to market. Additionally, two Singapore-based companies have already expressed interest to license IBN's photochromic contact lens. I am encouraged that diverse teams with proper leadership and good technologies can lead to a successful start of a great future ahead."

In addition to research, the NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis will also provide a wide range of eye care services, LASIK and refractive surgery for patients. The patient-centric centre is designed with the patient's interest and safety in mind. For example, to improve the patient's experience, the configuration of the centre optimises the patient flow by guiding them through the various eye-check stations. The LASIK operating suite also complies with stringent guidelines to enhance patients' safety. Another interesting feature is the see-through glass that allows the patients' family members to observe the LASIK procedure. Innovative treatment of vision correction using IBN's biomaterials will also be widely offered through the NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis.

Joe Sim, NUH Chief Executive Officer, said, "Having one of our eye facilities located in the Biopolis means we are right within the research hub. This will facilitate greater opportunities for research collaboration which is aligned with our focus as an academic medical centre. Our partnership with IBN will allow us to work closely with researchers on projects that will potentially translate to better care to benefit our patients and Singaporeans."

The close proximity of the eye clinic to IBN iCare at the Biopolis will strengthen the partnership between NUHS ophthalmologists and IBN researchers to better meet the healthcare needs of the patients. Besides eye care, IBN scientists can also work closely with clinicians at NUH to advance collaborations in IBN's four research areas: Drug and Gene Delivery, Cell and Tissue Engineering, Biosensors and Biodevices, Pharmaceuticals Synthesis and Nanobiotechnology.

The initiative by IBN iCare and NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis will also expedite the route to commercialization by bridging the gap from bench to industry. IBN is working with Carl Zeiss, a global leader in the optical industries, on the development of technologies and treatments associated with IBN's innovative ocular biomaterials. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Medical Corps is also partnering with IBN and NUH in research and training for vision correction technology to address the problems of myopia and ocular trauma in SAF operations.

###

Please refer to the annexes for more information on IBN iCare and NUH Eye Centre @ Bioplis.

For illustrations, media queries and interview requests, please contact:

Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology:

Elena Tan
Phone : 65 6824 7032
Email : elenatan@ibn.a-star.edu.sg

Laura Lau
Phone: 65 6824 7040
Email: sslau@ibn.a-star.edu.sg

National University Hospital:

Lisa Ang
Phone: 65 6772 5117
Email: lisa_ang@nuhs.edu.sg

Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd:

Seeto Wei Peng
Phone: 65 6478 8443
Email: weipeng@exploit-tech.com

ANNEX A: IBN iCARE

Since its inception in 2003, IBN has been revolutionizing medical treatment with sophisticated biomaterials and systems for delivering therapeutics to diseased cells and organs. IBN iCare is the first research lab in Singapore to focus on the development of novel nanomaterials for ocular therapy. The research thrusts include developing advanced ophthalmic biomaterials and implants for treatments of eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal disorders; pioneering new approaches to eye surgery and cornea wound healing; and developing new applications for the treatment of vision defects. Some of the exciting laboratory discoveries by IBN scientists over the years include:

Drug-Loaded Contact Lens for Ocular Drug Delivery:

This invention addresses the shortcomings of commercially available ophthalmic drug delivery systems and aims to provide a safe and easy ocular therapy. IBN scientists invented a technique to fabricate nanostructured contact lenses for controlled and sustained delivery of medication to the eyes. The rate of release of drugs embedded within the lens matrix can be regulated by varying the width and volume fraction of the nanochannels in the novel contact lens material. These patented lenses deliver medication more effectively than eye drops when treating eye disorders such as glaucoma and dry eyes.

Photochromic Contact Lens for Vision Protection:

Long-term, unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can lead to age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye conditions that can compromise the quality of our vision. IBN scientists have developed the first photochromic contact lenses in the world that can protect the eyes against ultraviolet radiation and glare. The lenses will darken on exposure to sunlight to shield the eyes against harmful ultraviolet rays and glare without compromising vision and comfort. The lenses will conveniently adapt to the changes in light and provide optimal indoor and outdoor vision.

Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL), the strategic marketing and commercialisation arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), has extensively marketed IBN's novel drug loaded contact lens since 2006. Based on positive interest from local and overseas industrial players and clinicians, ETPL has funded IBN iCare in a new S$5 million Flagship Program. IBN iCare will accelerate the translation of strategic research in vision care to new medical products and treatments. It will advance bench-to-bedside research through partnership with clinicians at the NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis.

IBN iCare is poised to create a major commercial impact to millions of people in the world suffering from vision impairment and myopia. 314 million people are visually impaired globally.[1] Singapore has one of the highest prevalence rates of myopia in the world. IBN iCare will incubate biomedical start-up companies in vision care and attract more global partners to Singapore to deliver advanced ocular applications and treatments worldwide.

IBN iCare is led by IBN Executive Director, Professor Jackie Y. Ying and IBN Team Leader and Senior Research Scientist, Dr Edwin Chow.

ANNEX B: NUH EYE CENTRE @ BIOPOLIS:

To fulfill the tri-partite mission of NUHS, the Department of Ophthalmology has developed a joint research venture with the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to establish the NUH Eye Centre @ Biopolis. This will pave the way for strategic plans to create an optimistic research environment for its clinician-scientists, as well as to make provisions for advanced ophthalmology techniques imperative for its clinical services.

The close proximity of the satellite eye ambulatory clinic at the Biopolis will provide opportunity for interactions between the NUHS ophthalmologists and IBN researchers to shape medicine for the future.

This project also provides a platform which, together with the culminated experience of both parties, shall serve to attract more international collaborations in the long-term research perspective, thereby meeting and developing new solutions to the healthcare needs of patients.

We are also pleased to announce that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Medical Corps, though a memorandum of understanding with NUHS, will be a partner in research and training in vision correction technology to address the problems of myopia and ocular trauma in SAF operations.

Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology:

The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) was established in 2003 as a national research institute under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore, by Executive Director, Professor Jackie Yi-Ru Ying. Prof. Ying was a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1992�). In 2008, Professor Ying was recognized as one of "One Hundred Engineers of the Modern Era" by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers for her groundbreaking work on nanostructured systems, nanoporous materials and host matrices for quantum dots and wires. Under her direction, IBN conducts research at the cutting-edge of bioengineering and nanotechnology. IBN's research programs are geared towards linking multiple disciplines across engineering, science and medicine to produce research breakthroughs that will improve healthcare and our quality of life.

IBN's research activities are focused in the following areas:

IBN's innovative research is aimed at creating new knowledge and intellectual properties in the emerging fields of bioengineering and nanotechnology to attract top-notch researchers and business partners to Singapore. Since 2003, IBN researchers have published over 500 papers in leading journals. IBN also plays an active role in technology transfer and spinning off companies, linking the research institute and industrial partners to other global institutions. The Institute has filed over 750 patent applications on its inventions and is currently looking for partners for collaboration and commercialization of its portfolio of technologies. IBN's current staff strength stands at ~ 200 scientists, engineers and medical doctors. With its multinational and multidisciplinary research staff, the institute is geared towards generating new biomaterials, devices, systems, equipment and processes to boost Singapore's economy in the fast-growing biomedical sector.

IBN is also committed to nurturing young minds, and the institute acts as a training ground for PhD students and undergraduates. In October 2003, IBN initiated a Youth Research Program to open its doors to university students, as well as students and teachers from various secondary schools and junior colleges. It has since reached out to more than 33,700 students and teachers from 210 local and overseas schools and institutions.

For more information, please log on to www.ibn.a-star.edu.sg

National University Hospital:

The National University Hospital (NUH), a member of the National University Health System (NUHS), is a tertiary specialist hospital that provides advanced, leading-edge medical care and services. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities as well as dedicated and well-trained staff, the NUH is a major referral centre that delivers tertiary care for a wide range of medical and dental specialties including Cardiology, Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Paediatrics and Orthopaedic Surgery. It is the principal teaching hospital of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

With combined resources from the teaching hospital and NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Faculty of Dentistry, the NUH will be able to meet the healthcare needs of patients, train future generations of doctors more effectively, and help develop solutions to our healthcare problems through research.

Backed by substantive expertise and experience, the NUH was chosen by the Ministry of Health to develop two new national specialist centres, the National University Heart Centre, Singapore and National University Cancer Institute, Singapore to meet the growing need for cardiac and cancer treatments.

In 2004, the NUH became the first Singapore hospital to receive Joint Commission International (JCI) Accreditation, an international stamp for excellent clinical practices in patient care and safety. It was also the first hospital in Singapore to receive a triple ISO certification concurrently for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems in 2002.

For more information, please visit www.nuh.com.sg

Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd:

Exploit Technologies is the strategic marketing and comercialisation arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Its mission is to support A*STAR in transforming the economy through commercialising R&D. Exploit Technologies enhances the research output of A*STAR scientists by translating their inventions into marketable products or processes. Through licensing deals and spinoffs with industry partners, Exploit Technologies is a key driver of technology transfer in Singapore. It actively engages industry leaders and players to commercialise A*STAR's technologies and capabilities, bridging the gap from Mind to Market. Exploit Technologies' charter is to identify, protect and exploit promising intellectual property (IP) created by A*STAR's research institutes.

Technologies are incubated through the Commercialisation of Technology (COT) funding program, where Exploit Technologies invests upfront and takes development risks of up to S$1m per project. COT is an internal gap funding mechanism for A*STAR's research institutes to carry out technology development and refinement based on their inventions and proof-of-concept prototypes over a period of 3 to 12 months. Through the COT program, Exploit Technologies creates a pool of market-ready technologies for commercial applications.

In technology Incubation, the teams at Exploit Technologies invest their efforts in the following activities:

In business incubation, Exploit Technologies collaborates with A*STAR's research institutes, where the teams identify new technology areas early in the research value chain to develop application driven, multi-disciplinary Flagship Projects and drive these with commercialisation in mind. Some of the Flagship projects have the potential to grow new industrial sectors.

In business incubation, Exploit Technologies engages in:

Exploit Technologies is now managing a portfolio of close to 3,000 active patents, has granted more than 250 licences for A*STAR's technologies, and created a portfolio of two dozen spin-off companies. Estimated business revenue to be generated by licensees from sales of products and provision of services using or incorporating A*STAR's technologies is projected to be over S$500M. And the total market value, both realised and unrealised, created through A*STAR startups amounts to at least S$100 million.

For more information, please visit www.exploit-tech.com.

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

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences, and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and seven consortia & centre, which are located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their immediate vicinity.

A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local and international partners.

For more information about A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg.

[1] Source: World Health Organization website.



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