Update: NTU announces S$30m institute focused on finding healthcare cures

THE Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Thursday said that it would be setting up a new S$30 million institute dedicated to structural biology research to find cures for human diseases.

Structural biology is a branch of molecular biology and, more importantly, medicine.

Bertil Andersson, NTU's president, said that cutting-edge imaging equipment can magnify protein molecules such as enzymes up to 10 million times, and render them in 3D.

"These 3D images of proteins at the atomic level hold the key in resolving some of the world's pressing health problems such as ageing and cancer. Understanding how molecules work and how their functions can be modified can help spur ground-breaking drug and vaccine discoveries," Prof Andersson added.

The NTU Institute of Structural Biology (NISB) is to be fully operational in the first quarter of 2016. It will be led by Daniela Rhodes, who won the S$24 million Tier 3 Ministry of Education research grant in 2013. The grant will partly bankroll the institute's research projects that are now in the pipeline.

Prof Rhodes had spent 42 years at Cambridge University's renowned MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and has worked with several Nobel Prize winners, said NTU.

The new institute is modelled after the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, which is one of the birthplaces of modern molecular biology. It has produced 15 Nobel Laureates, added NTU.

Prof Rhodes noted that since 1946, a total of 14 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 23 scientists who worked in the field of structural biology.

The institute will be part of NTU's Life Sciences cluster, comprising the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), the School of Biological Sciences, the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering.

To be completed this July, it will be housed at LKCMedicine's new seven-storey Experimental Medicine Building at the main campus.

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