A Research Blog

Gayatri SharmaWe speak to Dr Gayatri Sharma, Entrepreneur-in Residence (EiR) with CTeD, to find out how an EiR translates Duke-NUS inventions into commercial applications. 

1.       Tell us what you do as an EiR. 

 My primary role as an EiR is to create commercial value for the Intellectual Properties developed at Duke-NUS. Currently, I am working on developing a business plan around a Laminin platform technology developed at Professor Karl Tryggvason’s laboratory. Laminin-based technology enables us to grow cell types sustainably in large numbers by mimicking the environment of a human body. Some of these cell types include keratinocytes (skin cells), islets (insulin-producing cells) and cardiomyocytes (heart cells). This will address the huge market gap in cell production for therapeutic applications. We have seen great results in animal studies, and my job now is to chart the commercial path for this technology. 


In picture from left: Yoecelyn, Bryan Chua, Lim Sze-Xian, Eleanor Chew, Derek Lee, Prof Ivy Ng (Group CEO, SingHealth)

SingHealth Residency recently held the SingHealth Hackathon 2017 where staff and students from SingHealth and Duke-NUS, submitted proposals for innovations that would promote better coordination, communication and rehabilitation to improve patient care systems.  Fifteen teams competed in the Hackathon, and three teams were selected as top prize-winners.

Last week, Microscope talked to Duke-NUS students from CHIT, one of the winning teams. This week we chat with Lim Sze-Xian, Duke-NUS MD/PhD student and member of the winning team Move It!, about his experience working with a diverse team, his main takeaway and why he entered the Hackathon.

Describe Move It!

Move It! is an application that immerses patients in an interactive video game, which encourages them to perform rehabilitation exercises so as to recover their strength and range of motion more quickly. Move It! makes rehabilitation exercises easy to follow so patients know how to move their limbs by themselves safely, without the need of having a physiotherapist supervising them. The exercises that the patients are shown are customised to their specific condition. Our team is working towards commercialising the application so that patients will be able to start to benefit from it.

How did your team come up with the idea for your entry?

From left: Tan Chin Yee, Anthony Li, Izza Atiqa Ishak, Zach Tan Ye Zan, Prof Ivy Ng (Group CEO, SingHealth). Missing from photo: Tan Qian Ying Gayle.

In January of this year, SingHealth Residency held the first-ever SingHealth Hackathon that called for innovations that would promote better coordination, communication and rehabilitation to improve patient care systems. The SingHealth Hackathon 2017 was co-initiated by Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) alumna, Dr Rena Dharmawan, and NUS Alumna, Dr Cheong May Anne.

Fifteen teams, made up of staff and students from SingHealth and Duke-NUS, submitted their innovations, and three were selected as top prize winners. Today, we catch up with second-year Duke-NUS students, Tan Chin Yee and Anthony Li, members of winning team CHIT (Communicating Healthcare, Integrating Technology), to find out more about the application they devised, their SingHealth team members and what’s next for them.

Describe CHIT.

Chin Yee: CHIT is a secure communication platform for a patient’s medical team, which includes their doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and more, to communicate about the patient. Each patient’s records, medication and care are tagged to a patient-specific chat room. This way, every person on the medical team is kept up-to-date, and reduces any potential of miscommunication.

How did you come up with the idea of CHIT?

Cheryl McCafferyIn this continuing conversation series with members from Centre for Technology & Development (CTeD), let’s find out more from Cheryl McCaffery, Deputy Director of CTeD, about how you can work with CTeD to assess a technology’s potential for commercial development.

CTeD is always happy to hear about new technologies arising from Duke-NUS research programmes. Whenever a new technology is devised (e.g. a new drug or method for diagnosing a disease), you are welcome to speak to us for advice on all aspects of intellectual property protection and commercialisation.

David EpsteinJoin us in our new and ongoing conversation with Associate Dean David Epstein, Director of the Centre for Technology & Development (CTeD) about CTeD and commercialisation of research. For starters, we ask the fundamental question of CTeD’s mission and vision.

Till now, transporters for DHA uptake in the eye have not been identified. Duke-NUS PhD student Bernice Wong has been able to show that the transporter Mfsd2a is found at the blood-retinal barrier (BRB) and is required for Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) uptake in the eye – thereby proving Mfsd2a’s importance for normal eye development.Plastic sections of mice's eyes with blue staining to visualise the layers

DHA is highly enriched in the eye and is considered to be required for normal eye function. Photoreceptors are responsible for conferring vision, and its outer segments account for the highest body concentration of DHA per unit area. However, the eye does not synthesise DHA, and must import it from the blood. Like the blood-brain barrier (BBB), the eye too, has a BRB.

Bernice is the first author of this paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), while its senior author is Professor David Silver, Director of Graduate Studies at Duke-NUS and the Deputy Director of the Duke-NUS Signature Research Programme in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders.

Work previously published by Prof Silver demonstrated that Mfsd2a was the primary transporter for the uptake of DHA across the BBB in the chemical form of lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC). This was proven in mouse models and shown to be true in humans as well.


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