Chronic illness is becoming increasingly common worldwide, owing to widespread changes in environment, lifestyle and diet. Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading preventable cause of death. An ageing demographic is afflicted by the diseases of old age, particularly neurodegenerative disease. Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels and hospital-acquired infections have become commonplace. Meanwhile, drug discovery and development costs continue to soar and innovative therapies are struggling to secure reimbursement. At the time of writing, a novel pandemic virus has overwhelmed healthcare systems worldwide, claiming more than half a million lives within six months.
As we set out a new vision for the NTU Institute for Health Technologies (HealthTech NTU), it is clearer than ever that healthcare is facing significant new challenges - but also that we are exceptionally well-placed to provide the solutions. We are fortunate to be working at an extraordinary juncture in the development of biomedical innovations, with enormous productivity resulting from a great confluence of the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering.
The mission of HealthTech NTU is to promote inter-disciplinary collaboration in translational biomedical research by facilitating functional integration between engineers, scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs, particularly across the six engineering schools of NTU and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), a joint venture between NTU and Imperial College London. In doing so, we will draw on NTU’s acknowledged strengths in engineering and technology combined with LKCMedicine’s deep understanding of disease biology and clinical practice. We intend that HealthTech NTU will foremost promote intellectual cross-pollination between engineering, natural sciences and medicine, by establishing joint research programmes, assembling high-performing project teams and actively providing ancillary expertise to deliver impactful innovations that address grand challenges in healthcare.
Amongst other things, the pandemic has sharply focused our attention on the fundamental relationship between health, societal welfare and economic growth. In order for scientific innovation to play a leading role in balancing this equation, we must find better ways of translating basic research outcomes to cost-effective healthcare products that matter to patients. HealthTech NTU will therefore put in place mechanisms to actively facilitate the adoption of medical innovations by our industrial and clinical partners in the context of a national healthcare system ranked within the top five globally.
Finally, we recognise that effective collaboration between engineers, scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs is a grand challenge in itself. In addition to broadening research frontiers and providing a blueprint for biomedical innovation, an important function of HealthTech NTU will be to nurture a new generation of academic researchers with the training and mindset to carry out and translate highly interdisciplinary research at the interface of the life sciences, engineering and commerce.