New support for personalised medicine and cell therapy

New support for personalised medicine and cell therapy
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Researchers have been awarded grants to help support research on personalised medicine and cell therapy.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) research enterprise Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalized Medicine (CAMP) have been awarded Intra-CREATE grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF). The grants will support research on retinal biometrics for glaucoma progression and neural cell implantation therapy for spinal cord injuries.

Krystyn Van Vliet, co-lead Principal Investigator at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) CAMP, and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, said: “Singapore’s well-established biopharmaceutical ecosystem brings with it a thriving research ecosystem that is supported by skilled talents and strong manufacturing capabilities. We are excited to collaborate with our partners in Singapore, bringing together an interdisciplinary group of experts from MIT and Singapore, for new research areas at SMART.

“In addition to our existing research on our three flagship projects, we hope to develop breakthroughs in manufacturing other cell therapy platforms that will enable better medical treatments and outcomes for society.”

Better targeted treatments for glaucoma progression

Hosted by SMART CAMP, the first research project, Retinal Analytics via Machine learning aiding Physics (RAMP), brings together an interdisciplinary group of ophthalmologists, data scientists, and optical scientists from SMART, Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Duke-NUS Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and National University of Singapore (NUS). The team will seek to establish first principles-founded, and statistically confident models of, glaucoma progression in patients, which will enable rapid and reliable forecast of the rate and trajectory of glaucoma progression, leading to better targeted treatments.

MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor Barbastathis, co-leader of the research and Principal Investigator at SMART CAMP said: “We look forward to leveraging the ideas fostered in SMART CAMP to build data analytics and optical imaging capabilities for this pressing medical challenge of glaucoma prediction.”

Cell transplantation for spinal cord injury

The second research project, Engineering Scaffold-Mediated Neural Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury Treatment (ScaNCellS), gathers an interdisciplinary group of engineers, cell biologists, and clinician scientists from SMART, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), NUS, IMCB A*STAR, A*STAR, French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), University of Cambridge, and MIT.

The team will seek to design a combined scaffold and neural cell implantation therapy for spinal cord injury treatment that is safe, efficacious, and reproducible, paving the way forward for similar neural cell therapies for other neurological disorders. The project aims to achieve its goals through an enhanced biological understanding of the regeneration process of nerve tissue and optimised engineering methods to prepare cells and biomaterials for treatment.

Chew Sing Yian, Principal Investigator at SMART CAMP and Associate Professor of the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, at NTU said: “Our earlier SMART and NTU scientific collaborations on progenitor cells in the central nervous system are now being extended to cell therapy translation. This helps us address SCI in a new way, and connect to the methods of quality analysis for cells developed in SMART CAMP.”

“Cell therapy, one of the fastest-growing areas of research, will provide patients with access to more options that will prevent and treat illnesses, some of which are currently incurable. Glaucoma and spinal cord injuries affect many,” said Hanry Yu, co-lead Principal Investigator at SMART CAMP.

“Our research will seek to plug current gaps and deliver valuable impact to cell therapy research and medical treatments for both conditions. With a good foundation to work on, we will be able to pave the way for future exciting research for further breakthroughs that will benefit the healthcare industry and society.”

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