NTU launches nationwide research-initiative to promote lung health, focussing on Asian phenotype

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The aim of this initiative is to learn how lung diseases present and develop in local patient populations

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Some of the existing, research and treatment recommendations for lung diseases are derived from data, obtained from Caucasian populations. But it is a known fact, that lung diseases or in fact any disease, affects different ethnicities in different ways.

Thus it becomes imperative, to understand the unique characteristics of lung diseases in Singapore and Asian patients to improve their prevention, treatment and care services. Keeping this objective in mind, the Nanyang Technological University from Singapore (NTU Singapore) is launching a nationwide research initiative on lung health.

The Academic Respiratory Initiative for Pulmonary Health (TARIPH), which will be spearheaded by NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), aims to address this pressing gap in knowledge for the Singaporean population and Asian patients.

The findings from TARIPH could aid policymakers and the healthcare sector in determining strategies and implementation of medical interventions, healthcare delivery and access, health promotion and disease awareness in Singapore, and potentially throughout Asia.

For a start, TARIPH will bring together more than 30 investigators from local and international institutions to generate evidence on how lung diseases present and develop in local patient populations. TARIPH investigators have diverse backgrounds ranging from physiology, engineering to data analytics, epidemiology and clinical medicine.

Slated to start this year, TARIPH’s flagship project “Phenotypes of Respiratory Disease” will detail the characteristics, behaviors and progression of respiratory diseases specific to Singapore.

This will allow medical decisions, practices and interventions to be tailored to Asians and the individual rather than the disease. It will develop new DNA-based tests for common lung infections.

Respiratory disease is a major contributor to disease burden in Singapore, with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) rising in terms of leading causes of death, while asthma has moderate prevalence but high rates of mortality.

With the rapidly ageing population and contributing factors such as environmental pollution, the prevalence of respiratory disease could worsen and through research, TARIPH will be best placed to address the challenge ahead.

TARIPH will also study the economic and social costs of respiratory disease in Singapore and examine how to improve the ways chronic lung disease patients access to care.

The formation of TARIPH was officially announced yesterday at the 2nd International Symposium on Respiratory Research, hosted by LKCMedicine at its Novena campus.

Professor Lam Khin Yong, NTU Vice President (Research), said, “With our strong track record of successful industry and academic collaborations, NTU is well-placed to lead this new initiative that aims to promote better lung health for Singaporeans. We strive to ensure that what we do has the potential to impact society in a meaningful way. With the dedicated leadership provided by NTU’s LKCMedicine in this initiative, and working in tandem with our Singapore and international collaborators across disciplines, I am certain TARIPH will be able to develop new and innovative ways to improve the lung health of Singaporeans.”

Professor James Best, Dean of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine said, “TARIPH will focus on the full spectrum of research – from bench to bedside and to the population. Its flagship research effort will characterize lung diseases at the molecular level to understand the cause of illness in Asian patients. At the same time, clinical data from hospitals and clinics in Singapore will allow clinician scientists to address pertinent questions that will improve clinical care in the near future.”

“With the high burden of lung diseases in Singapore, LKCMedicine is taking the lead in driving respiratory research to deepen our understanding of lung health, improve prevention and develop better treatments for lung diseases, with a focus on the population of Singapore and its region.”