Key members of the research collaboration: (from left) Prof Roger Foo (Programme Director, ATTRaCT, and Senior Group Leader, GIS), Dr Karin Conde-Knape (Senior Vice President, Global Drug Discovery, Novo Nordisk), Dr Rasmus Rabøl (Corporate Vice President, Global Translation, Novo Nordisk), Dr Natasha Michaelsen (Principal Scientist, Global Translation, Novo Nordisk), Prof Mark Richards (Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute, NUS, and Deputy Director, National University Heart Centre), Prof Derek Hausenloy (Research Director, Senior Consultant, NHCS), Prof Carolyn Lam (Senior Consultant Cardiologist, NHCS)(not pictured), and Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh (Executive Director, BII)(not pictured).

SINGAPORE – The Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Bioinformatics Institute (BII), as well as the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), National University of Singapore (NUS), and pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk have signed an agreement to study the mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease progression—especially the condition called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

Heart disease is a major cause of death globally and in Singapore. While HFpEF is a growing public health concern, particularly as a cause for serious debility in the growing elderly population in Singapore, therapies to improve patient outcomes are still lacking. Moreover, compared to Western populations, Asians have a younger age of onset of heart failure. The research collaboration is focused on understanding the underlying biology of HFpEF patients in Asia, and carrying out comprehensive studies of biomarkers that lead to the segmentation of these patients based on their pathologies, and in order to advance the development of therapeutics for heart failure.

The project leverages large and well-phenotyped heart failure patient cohorts from the Asian neTwork for Translational Research and Cardiovascular Trials (ATTRaCT), a translational cardiovascular research programme led by A*STAR that integrates efforts from basic, translational, and clinical scientists from multiple institutes across Singapore.

Specifically, the project will support the integration of clinical imaging, as well as molecular biological and clinical phenotypes; and advance the development of novel treatments for heart failure.

GIS and NHCS are carrying out cellular studies to dissect mechanisms of disease using patient specific cells, while NUS runs additional complex proteomic analysis on ATTRaCT patient biosamples. BII serves as the data custodian for the aggregated ATTRaCT datasets from across the multiple institutions, offering project parties access and analysis of the multiple data types. This includes the provision of computing requirements to both industry and academic researchers, and the administrative role of ensuring proper governance over data usage.

Prof Roger Foo, Programme Leader of ATTRaCT, Senior Group Leader of the Laboratory of Molecular Epigenomics and Chromatin Organisation at A*STAR’s GIS, and Director of the Cardiovascular Disease Translational Research Programme at NUS Medicine, said, “We are honoured to be part of the collaboration that will build upon the multi-disciplinary efforts of scientists from A*STAR  and NUS, as well as contributions by physicians from Singapore hospitals. Findings from the collaboration will provide informative insights into the genetic and cellular biomarkers associated with HFpEF, and support the development of novel diagnostic tools to target therapies for Asian patients with cardiovascular disease. Research on HFpEF is urgently needed as it is a condition of growing public health importance, and yet, to date, there are no effective therapies.”

Prof Carolyn Lam, Founding Programme Leader of ATTRaCT and Senior Consultant from Department of Cardiology at NHCS, said, “Through partnership across top clinical and research institutions in Singapore, ATTRaCT described a novel lean diabetic phenotype of HFpEF, unique to our Asian region. We are now very excited to deepen our understanding of the disease and develop potential new treatments for our patients.”

Prof Mark Richards, Director at the NUS’ Cardiovascular Research Institute said  “This partnership allows sophisticated deep exploration of blood signals in heart failure. It opens doors to new methods of detecting and understanding this common and dangerous condition with the prospect of new tests and new treatments benefitting Singapore from both health and economic viewpoints.”

Dr Karin Conde-Knape, Senior Vice President at Novo Nordisk said, “We are excited about this new collaboration. In Novo Nordisk, we are always looking to partner up with the best in the world and we believe that collaborating with leading research centres in Singapore will help us identify new therapeutic targets and biomarkers to address unmet medical need within cardiovascular disease to the benefit of patients worldwide.”

About ATTRaCT:
The ATTRaCT programme was established in 2015 as a clinical research programme to understand the pathophysiology of heart failure in the Asian context, and to uncover novel therapeutic and diagnostic opportunities. It brought together five A*STAR research institutes, the National University of Singapore, and six hospitals from National University Health System (NUHS), SingHealth, and National Healthcare Group (NHG) to create an integrated biobank and database to enable further research.

Read more: https://www.a-star.edu.sg/attract/home