Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), and the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) have launched a joint laboratory that will develop advanced eye imaging technologies and drug delivery systems.
The new SERI-NTU Advanced Ocular Engineering (STANCE) Laboratory will develop innovations that use light to image the eye – a technique known as “optical coherence tomography” (OCT).
For example, the joint Lab will perfect a triple-beam OCT imaging prototype that illuminates the eye from three different angles and accurately measure blood flow. This can precisely detect diseases in the eye, such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma with greater precision.
Another project involves developing a cost-effective and portable robotic OCT system to perform rapid and automated eye screenings. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), the system will provide a convenient platform to detect eye conditions earlier, without requiring attendance at a specialised eye clinic or hospital. These projects will be translated, tested and validated, from lab to bedside.
The joint Lab was launched today by Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO of Singapore Health Services, and it will be located on the NTU Smart Campus where other advanced technologies are being developed in partnership with industry.
Professor Leopold Schmetterer, Director of the STANCE Lab, said, “Eye diseases remain one of the key conditions that an ageing population in Singapore faces, which lead to vision impairment that affects mobility. The STANCE Lab will develop new imaging technologies to detect and diagnose eye conditions, quickly, easily and conveniently.
“The STANCE Lab will also create a multidisciplinary research ecosystem at NTU by housing ophthalmologists, biomedical engineers, and research scientists, who will work on joint research projects addressing new and future healthcare challenges,” said Prof Schmetterer, who is also a Professor at NTU and the Scientific Director and Head of Ocular Imaging Research Group at SERI.
Professor Louis Phee, Dean of NTU’s College of Engineering, said, “The new STANCE Lab will look into developing innovative healthcare solutions that leverage advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and new optical imaging techniques. NTU’s collaboration with SERI echoes the university’s close working relationship with industry and healthcare institutions, to ensure innovations developed at the lab remain relevant, practical and beneficial to society. These partnerships also underpin NTU's strong track record in translational research excellence, which supports Singapore's vibrant research ecosystem.”
Professor Aung Tin, Executive Director, Singapore Eye Research Institute, said, “We hope that this new lab between SNEC-SERI and NTU will be the start of an important programme to utilise engineering solutions to help and improve care of our patients with eye problems.”
Three main areas of focus
The launch of the STANCE Lab also sees the start of over ten joint research projects that address three broad themes:
i) Functional extensions of in-vivo optical coherence imaging to extract potential biomarkers for better disease management;
ii) Screening devices that enable diagnostic imaging beyond the clinic into the community and at home;
iii) Multi-modal imaging, which uses different types of ophthalmic imaging, and ocular therapeutics that will spur the development of innovative devices and treatment procedures.
One project will use a robotic arm guided by an AI-powered imaging system to look under the eye surface and detect early signs of eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Using machine learning algorithms, the AI system will suggest if further diagnosis with a specialist is required.
Researchers aim to fully automate the entire procedure under a minute, which would be useful for community-based screening at, i.e. heartlands or community centres, to detect ophthalmic conditions earlier and enable timely interventions.
The STANCE Lab will also collaborate with industry by engaging with various imaging and pharmaceutical companies and nurture spin-off companies to accelerate the development of new technologies.
Nur Amin Shah
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Singapore National Eye Centre
About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and Graduate colleges. It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.
NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) and Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N).
Ranked 11th in the world, NTU has been placed the world’s top young university for the past six years. The University’s main campus is frequently listed among the Top 15 most beautiful university campuses in the world and it has 57 Green Mark-certified (equivalent to LEED-certified) building projects, of which 95% are Green Mark Platinum. Apart from its main campus, NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s healthcare district.
For more information, visit www.ntu.edu.sg
About Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI)
Established in 1997, SERI is Singapore’s national research institute for ophthalmic and vision research. SERI’s mission is to conduct high impact eye research with the aim to prevent blindness, low vision and major eye diseases common to Singaporeans and Asians. SERI has grown from a founding team of five in 1997 to a faculty of 220, encompassing clinician scientists, scientists, research fellows, PhD students and support staff. This makes SERI one of the largest research institutes in Singapore and the largest eye research institute in Asia-Pacific. In addition, SERI has over 250 adjunct faculties from various eye departments, biomedical institutes and tertiary centres in Singapore.
SERI has amassed an impressive array of more than 3,118 scientific papers as of December 2017, and has secured more than $276 million in external peer-reviewed competitive grants. To date, SERI’s faculty has been awarded more than 454 national and international prizes and filed more than 127 patents. Serving as the research institute of the Singapore National Eye Centre and affiliated to the Duke-NUS Medical School, National University of Singapore, SERI undertakes vision research in collaboration with local clinical ophthalmic centres and biomedical research institutions, as well as major eye centres and research institutes throughout the world. Today, SERI is recognised as a pioneering centre for high quality eye research in Asia, with breakthrough discoveries that has translated to significant paradigm shift in eye care delivery.
For more information, visit www.seri.com.sg
About Singapore National Eye Centre
Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) was incorporated in 1989 and commenced operations in 1990. It is the designated national centre within the public sector healthcare network, and spearheads and coordinates the provision of specialised ophthalmological services with emphasis on quality education and research. Since its opening in 1990, SNEC has achieved rapid growth and currently manages an annual workload of 330,000 outpatient visits, 34,000 major eye surgeries and laser procedures.
Ten subspecialties in Cataract, Cataract and Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Corneal and External Eye Disease, Glaucoma, Neuro-Ophthalmology, Oculoplastic and Aesthetic Eyeplastic, Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Refractive Surgery, Ocular Inflammation and Immunology and Retina (Medical & Surgical) have been established to provide a full range of eye treatment from comprehensive to tertiary levels for the entire spectrum of eye conditions.
SNEC was accorded the Excellence for Singapore Award in 2003 for achieving excellence in the area of Ophthalmology, thrusting Singapore into international prominence. In 2006, SNEC received the first Minister for Health Award for public health. Three clinician scientists from Singapore National Eye Centre and Singapore Eye Research Institute were awarded the prestigious President's Science and Technology Award in 2009, 2010 and 2014 for their outstanding contributions in translational, clinical and epidemiological research in cornea, retina and glaucoma.
For more information, visit www.snec.com.sg