Singapore Research Organisations Team Up To Advance Drug Discovery Using Brain Tumor Stem Cells

February 18, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Lilly Singapore Centre for Drug Discovery (LSCDD), Singapore’s National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), have teamed up to advance drug discovery using adult brain tumour stem cells.

NNI is one of the institutions of SingHealth, the largest public healthcare group in Singapore. LSCDD, a wholly owned subsidiary of the US-based biopharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and Company has recently expanded its facility at the Biopolis, and has cancer as one of its disease areas of focus. SICS is one of the research institutes of Singapore’s A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research).

The research collaboration will leverage earlier findings by NNI research scientist Dr. Carol Tang, and Dr. Christopher Ang Beng Ti, a NNI neurosurgeon and SICS clinical investigator. The duo have shown that primary brain tumours are caused by a minority group of cells that display a genetic profile distinct from that of the tumour bulk.

They have reliably established a method of cryopreservation for these tumour-initiating cells (frequently termed “cancer stem cells”), thus facilitating the development of a brain tumour stem cell repository for future research and drug screening efforts. These important discoveries were published late last year in the journal Stem Cells.

“Our scientific goals are to understand if and how we can target adult brain tumour stem cells selectively, and to use bioinformatics to identify novel biomarkers and new drug target,” said Drs. Tang and Ang. “Ultimately, this could lead to new approaches to treat brain tumours.”

The researchers have reason to be optimistic. This collaboration is the first amongst staff from Eli Lilly and Company and lead Singapore research agencies, NNI and A*STAR. With increased opportunities for exchanging ideas and synergising efforts, more effective and less invasive cancer treatment is now one step closer to becoming a reality.

Dr. Jonathon D. Sedgwick, LSCDD Managing Director and Chief Scientific Officer, said that “discovering new, breakthrough medicines through translational and clinical research requires intensive collaborations amongst partners. This research collaboration with clinicians and scientists from NNI and SICS will bring together different expertise and resources. This fits well with Lilly’s new collaborative model known as the Fully Integrated Pharmaceutical Network (FIPNet) model, and will enhance and accelerate Lilly’s ability to find ‘Answers That Matter’.”

Dr. Judith Swain, SICS Executive Director, said that “this collaboration is aligned with our focus on disease-oriented clinical and translational research. The family of clinician scientists here at SICS is well positioned to perform critical work at the border between basic and clinical research. We look forward to working closely with LSCDD and NNI to develop cutting-edge approaches for novel drug development.”

“NNI’s research aims to improve treatment and discover cures for neurological disease. This collaboration will enable all parties to benefit from the exchange of multidisciplinary expertise and will expedite the translation of research findings into clinical practice,” said Prof. Lee Wei Ling, Executive Director of NNI.


Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.


Lilly Singapore Center for Drug Discovery (LSCDD):

The Lilly Singapore Centre for Drug Discovery (LSCDD) is an innovation-driven drug discovery, biomarker discovery, and computational research centre based in Singapore.

The centre is an integral part of Eli Lilly and Company, and as a result has the backing of one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.

In the area of drug discovery LSCDD focuses on the areas of cancer and metabolic disorders – some of the world’s most challenging disease conditions. The role of epigenetics in these diseases and the application of adult stem cells for drug discovery are particular focus areas.

Contributions, collaborations and support from like-minded companies and the wider scientific community can enhance and accelerate Lilly’s ability to find “Answers That Matter.” Thus, LSCDD will conduct many of its activities through a network of partners and be part of a FIPNet (Fully Integrated Pharmaceutical Network).

For more information on LSCDD, please visit:

National Neuroscience Institute (NNI):

The National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) is the leading regional specialist centre for cutting edge treatment, education and research in the neurosciences. It offers over 20 clinical subspecialties and treats a broad range of illnesses affecting the brain, spine, nerve and muscle. The NNI sees the most number of neurological cases in Singapore, providing clinical services to Singapore General Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Alexandra Hospital and Changi General Hospital. The NNI is one of the institutions of SingHealth, the largest public healthcare group in Singapore.

For more information on NNI, please visit:

Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS):

Established in 2007, the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) is a new institute within the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and has as its mission to develop disease-oriented clinical and translational research programmes in focused disease areas.

SICS is distinguished by its focus on clinical sciences and the use of innovative approaches and technologies that enable the efficient and effective study of human health and diseases. The clinical scientists in SICS conduct the full spectrum of “bench to bedside” research activities in genetic medicine, infectious diseases and metabolic diseases (including diabetes/obesity/insulin resistance).

The institute aims to attract, train and nurture clinician-scientists and serves as a critical bridge linking basic research undertaken by A*STAR Research Institutes and clinical research programmes in Singapore’s public hospitals, disease centres and the universities.

For more information on SICS, please visit:

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 22 research institutes, consortia and centres, 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 on A*STAR, please visit:

Source: Cathy Yarbrough

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



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