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27 Nov 2019

27th Nov 2019

Professor Subra Suresh, President, Nanyang Technological University Singapore

Professor James Best, Dean, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

Professor Philip Choo, Group CEO, National Healthcare Group

Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth

Professor Richard Reynolds, Director, Brain Bank Singapore

Distinguished guests, partners

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     A very good afternoon. I am pleased to be here at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) to officiate the opening of Brain Bank Singapore. The Brain Bank is a tripartite research collaboration centre between NTU’s LKCMedicine, the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) and the National Healthcare Group (NHG). It aims to provide a repository of post-mortem human brain and related tissue for ethical use in research.

Growing prevalence of neurological disorders

2.     By 2030, the number of Singaporeans who will be 65 years and over is projected to double, making up a quarter of the population. As Singapore’s population ages, we can anticipate an increase in chronic neurological disorders affecting the brain and the rest of the nervous system.

3.   According to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease study, the most common neurological disorders in Singapore are stroke, dementia (which includes Alzheimer’s Disease), epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease1. Statistics wise, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Singapore2, and the third leading cause of disease burden3. One in four Singaporeans will suffer from stroke in their lifetime4.

4.   Parkinson’s Disease affects three in every 1,000 Singaporeans aged 50 and abovewhile one in 10 of those aged 60 and above currently has dementia. The number is even more worrying for Singaporeans aged 85 and above – where an estimated half have dementia6. Beyond 2030, this number is expected to exceed 100,0007.

5.      These numbers show the increase in need for healthcare and care services as we approach 2030, driven by more people needing care and requiring greater resources per person for such care. Hence there is an urgent need for us to substantially age-proof Singapore in terms of processes, support systems, healthcare and economy.

Role of research on neurological disorders

6.      So What is the role of research in neurological disorders? Particularly, in biomedical research, research can play a big part in addressing the healthcare needs of Singapore’s ageing population and bring about better healthcare outcomes. Innovative research is critical in finding ways to maintain a healthy mind and prevent disease, through the understanding of the pathophysiology – the functions and symptoms – of neurological disorders, and in the evaluation of current treatments as well as the development and creation of better treatments.

7.      Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has identified neurological and sense disorders as a priority area for research. In August, MOH’s National Medical Research Council (NMRC) awarded a $25-million Open Fund – Large Collaborative Grant to a multi-institutional team led by NNI for the research proposal ‘Singapore Parkinson’s disease Translational Clinical Programme’, otherwise known as ‘SPARK, Phase II’. This project aims to identify new drugs to improve health outcomes in Parkinson’s disease as well as identify risk and protective factors to slow disease progression.

8.     The establishment of Brain Bank Singapore – a collaboration between NTU, NNI and NHG – is in alignment with MOH’s efforts to encourage research on neurological disorders. Through the collection of post-mortem brain tissue donations, Brain Bank Singapore will be able to build a national repository of both healthy, and non-healthy brain specimens from those who had suffered from stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and other neurodegenerative diseases. This will enable neuroscientists to study actual human brains to better understand the causes behind these disorders.

9.     The recently awarded Parkinson’s treatment study in generating new dopamine-producing nerve cells from umbilical cord lining stem cells, is one such example of research in this field. Professor Lim Kah Leong, one of the lead researchers on this project, has recently joined LKCMedicine as the Vice Dean of Research, so we are expecting more from Prof Lim.

Knowledge exchange and best practices among clinicians and researchers

10.     MOH also recognises the importance of collaboration across disciplines and the exchange of knowledge and best practices among clinicians and researchers, in improving patient care and facilitating research into neurological disorders. Several platforms to facilitate these exchanges have been established.

11.       For example, the annual NMRC Research Symposium is an excellent opportunity for research scientists, the clinical community as well as other industry players to interact and discuss various aspects of biomedical research. In recognition of the importance of neurological disorders, ‘Neurological and Sense Disorders’ was a theme-based parallel track in both the 2018 and 2019 editions.

12.        MOH has also initiated value-driven care tracking for 17 high-impact surgical and medical conditions, including ischaemic stroke, the most common of the three types of stroke. This enables the tracking and comparison across healthcare institutions of standardised clinical quality indicators and cost. This data-driven approach will help use to optimise health outcomes for every dollar spent, and drive improvements in performance.

13.    Likewise, Brain Bank Singapore seeks to become a viable platform for collaboration across clinical and research lines, allowing for the gathering of the best neuroscientists and clinical scientists to work together on the most pressing neurological and neurodegenerative diseases plaguing Singapore presently and in the coming decades. Biomedical research should not be done in isolation as it requires clinical input from the healthcare sector to gain relevance in the translation of healthcare outcomes.


14.     Singapore is committed to building and achieving a future-ready healthcare system to tackle the evolving needs of the population, for this and future generations.

15.      On this note, I wish Brain Bank Singapore every success and look forward to seeing results that will translate into better treatments for neurological disorders, which will enable Singaporeans to live more healthily, for longer.

Thank you.

Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study 2017.
Principal Cause of Death;
Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study 2017.
World Stroke Organisation.
Tan LCS et al. Prevalence of Parkinson disease in Singapore: Chinese vs. Malays vs. Indians. Neurology 2004; 62(11):1999–2004.
Estimated prevalence from the Well-being of the Singapore Elderly (WiSE) study (2011); results published by Subramaniam M et al. Prevalence of dementia in people aged 60 years and above: Results from the WiSE study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2015;45(4):1127–1138.
Ministry of Health (2014).

Category: Highlights Speeches