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Professor Kenneth Mak, Director-General of Health, Ministry of Health
Award winners, colleagues and friends 
Ladies and gentlemen
1. A very good morning. I am delighted to join everyone here at the National Medical Research Council (NMRC) Awards Ceremony and Research Symposium 2024. 
2. I note that a rich programme has been lined up for the next one-and- a-half days. Besides this morning’s award ceremony to recognise the recipients of the NMRC Human Capital Awards and Talent Pipeline Programmes, the symposium that follows will feature several key opinion leaders sharing their insights on topics that are interesting and relevant for us. I hope the event will serve as a useful platform for the exchange of knowledge and expertise among clinicians, scientists and researchers from the healthcare institutions, academia and industry.
NMRC’s 30th Anniversary
3. As NMRC Executive Director Professor Tan Say Beng mentioned in his welcome address, this year is NMRC’s 30th anniversary. Established in 1994, the NMRC has been at the forefront of overseeing, co-ordinating and funding medical research in Singapore, even before the launch of Singapore’s Biomedical Science initiative in 2000. NMRC’s funding portfolio has grown significantly over the years since its establishment and more rapidly in recent years with Singapore’s increased investments in health and biomedical sciences. More importantly, NMRC has adopted a rigorous process of grant reviews and engagement of key stakeholders, to ensure that only proposals that are scientifically strong and have good potential to be impactful, get supported.
4. Today, NMRC supports the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 (RIE2025) initiative and remains committed to promoting excellence in healthcare research, nurturing a vibrant research community of clinicians and scientists, and supporting enablers and infrastructure for better health and economic outcomes.
Talent Development in Healthcare Research
5. In particular, in the area of nurturing and developing talent in healthcare research, NMRC has focused on supporting and grooming clinician scientists, to spearhead health and biomedical research in Singapore.
6. We are here this morning to recognise and celebrate the achievements of 67 outstanding individuals who have been awarded the NMRC Talent Awards. 35 of them are recipients of the Talent Pipeline Programmes intended to support budding clinician scientists, and 32 of them are receiving the Human Capital Awards for established clinician scientists. Today’s award recipients will be part of a growing pool of clinician scientists and clinical research talent in Singapore.
Collaborations in Healthcare Research
7. Besides nurturing talents, forging collaborations is also pivotal for driving healthcare research. In today’s complex healthcare landscape, collaboration is essential to drive meaningful advancements in healthcare research, transformation and delivery. The collaboration between scientists and clinician scientists within a multidisciplinary team helps to foster team science to address multi-faceted challenges in healthcare.
8. One of the ways that NMRC promotes team science is through the Open Fund-Large Collaborative Grant (LCG). The LCG aims to support the best teams of researchers from public institutions to advance human health and wellness, and create economic value for Singapore, through the pursuit of excellence in health and biomedical research and its applications. Over the years, the LCG has done well in contributing to scientific excellence, building research collaborations, attracting industry partnerships, as well as translating research results into health and economic outcomes.
New Projects Awarded under the Open Fund-Large Collaborative Grant
9. We are committed to continuing to support deserving LCG programmes that would help us advance into new areas and build new capabilities. Today, I am pleased to announce the award of five LCG projects under the May 2023 grant call. The projects have been recently approved and will be supported at a total quantum of about $95 million.
LCGs awarded for the first time
10. I will now talk a bit about each of the projects, starting with the three LCGs that will be receiving the awards for the first time.
11. We have ‘The Academic Respiratory Initiative for Pulmonary Health’ (TARIPH), which has been awarded $10 million. Respiratory disease is one of the top causes of global mortality. The team, including experts from the universities and healthcare institutions, seeks to address knowledge gaps in Asian respiratory disease that will bring benefits to Singaporeans living with lung disease, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Their research also aims to position Singapore as a key academic respiratory hub for the wider Asian sub-continent.
12. The second new LCG which has also received $10 million is ‘ADEPT’, which stands for ‘Atopic Dermatitis research Program for patienTs’. Atopic Dermatitis (AD) is the most common skin disorder in Singapore. With this award, the team, comprising dermatologists, scientists and engineers, seeks to better understand the causes and disease progression of this condition. They aim to develop cutting-edge diagnostic tools and therapies to improve the quality of life for AD patients and reduce the overall prevalence of AD in Singapore.
13. The third LCG is awarded to the ‘Colo-SCRIPT: Colorectal cancer subtype-specific research informs phenotypes, diagnostics & treatments’ project, which has received $25 million. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Singapore. Currently, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is used to diagnose and manage colorectal cancer, without considering its heterogeneity. The team aims to develop effective tailored strategies, focusing on early detection to intercept disease progression and preventive intervention for individuals at risk of cancer.
LCGs awarded renewal funding
14. Next, let me briefly introduce the remaining 2 LCGs which had performed well and following rigorous reviews, were assessed to be deserving to receive renewal funding at $25 million each.
15. First, we have the ‘Translational Asian Age-related Macular Degeneration Programme’ (TAAP). Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness in elderly people in Singapore and globally. In their renewed LCG award, TAAP-2, the team aims to expand the scope beyond their first LCG award on neovascular AMD, to address gaps across the AMD spectrum from early to end-stage. The outcomes are expected to lead to novel diagnostics, therapies and cost-effective models of care, further establishing Singapore as a leader in the field of Asian AMD research.
16. The second LCG that has been renewed is the ‘Singapore lYMPHoma translatiONal studY – SYMPHONY 2.0’. Lymphoma is the sixth most prevalent cancer in Singapore, with its incidence rising worldwide in recent decades. Building on the findings from SYMPHONY 1.0 which was awarded in 2019, SYMPHONY 2.0 aims to improve the diagnosis of lymphoma and contribute to the understanding of drug resistance mechanisms.
17. I am happy to note that a number of these LCG projects are led by previous and current recipients of the NMRC Talent Awards. This shows the critical role that NMRC Talent Awards play in supporting healthcare research endeavours.
18. Finally, I would like to close by congratulating the five LCG teams as well as all the recipients for this year’s NMRC awards. I look forward to your continued contributions to research excellence and better health outcomes for Singapore and Singaporeans.
19. On this note, I wish everyone a fruitful symposium. Thank you very much.

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