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Tanoto Foundation awards $3.6M in medical research grants

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Tanoto Foundation announced the first three recipients of the Medical Research Fund (MRF) at the inaugural Medical Philanthropy Forum.

The funding of up to SGD 5 million ($3.6 million) per year has been awarded to three research projects, which were selected out of over 100 applications.

The MRF was launched in 2023 to support research excellence and collaborative efforts to generate innovations that will address Asia-prevalent diseases. As the first private philanthropic foundation to launch such a fund in Singapore, Tanoto Foundation seeks to foster a culture of sustainable giving that amplifies the long-term impact of philanthropy-funded research.

The MRF’s main objectives are to support effective research (new discoveries), catalyse additional funding and cultivate local research talent. Ultimately, the research outcomes should be made accessible and beneficial for the public good. For the inaugural MRF call for proposals, Tanoto Foundation has prioritised two research focus areas namely: cardiology, and maternal and child health, for funding.

The following three proposals have been awarded based on these criteria: potential for impact, robustness of approach, track record of study team and strength of collaboration. The chosen projects cover:

Improving cardiometabolic risk management in diabetes: Cardiovascular diseases are the most common causes of death in Singapore, with heart attacks and strokes occurring a decade earlier and with a two to four times higher rate in diabetes patients than non-diabetics. Associate professor Rinkoo Dalan, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, has identified factors contributing towards worse metabolic and vascular function in type 2 diabetes patients. Her research team will look to generate evidence contributing towards a low-cost solution to manage and lower cardiovascular risks in type 2 diabetes patients.

Understanding fertility decline: Professor Brian Kennedy, National University of Singapore, will be furthering his studies into maternal fertility decline due to ovarian aging, looking to identify its most prolific causes and investigate safer and more effective reproductive interventions to preserve ovarian functions, extend fertility, mitigate menopause-related complications and promote the general well-being of aging women.

Addressing the increase in childhood allergies: With allergy sufferers on the rise and long-term adverse effects on children becoming more common, associate professor, Ashley St. John, from Duke-NUS Medical School, will investigate the transmission of allergic diseases from mother to offspring in humans during pregnancy. The research will help better understand the risks and long-term consequences of childhood allergies and potentially discover prevention therapies.

Bey Soo Khiang, executive advisor, Tanoto Foundation, commented: "Tanoto Foundation was founded based on the belief that everyone has the right to maximise his or her full potential. If one is burdened by illnesses, he or she cannot live life to the fullest. Hence, we leveraged Singapore’s quality healthcare and research ecosystem and set up the Tanoto Foundation Medical Research Fund to support impactful ground-up medical discoveries, catalyse additional and consistent funding opportunities, and nurture local research talent in Singapore. Our grant of SGD 5 million ($3.6 million) per year will contribute to advancing new medical solutions and improving population health in Singapore.”

The research projects were announced at the first Tanoto Foundation Medical Philanthropy Forum. The forum which convened clinicians and scientists included a panel discussion titled ‘Philanthropy's Impact on Medical Innovation: Accelerating Research to Real-World Medical Solutions in Singapore’, featured medical experts and speakers:

  • Lim Su Chi, clinical director, Clinical Research Unit, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
  • Chong Yap Seng, dean, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore
  • Ng Kee Chong, CEO, Changi General Hospital

During the panel, the three speakers highlighted that medical research serves as a critical extension and reflection of unmet healthcare needs. They note that many areas are currently underfunded, and affirmed the role of philanthropy in addressing these funding gaps. The panellists also emphasised the importance of encouraging collaboration between medical professionals, philanthropists and policymakers, to ensure the implementation of scalable medical interventions from ideation to fruition, for the benefit of communities in Singapore and the region.

Re-disseminated by  Wealth and Society

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