FinCEAL Plus Asia  Singapore-Finland Research Seminar on Metabolic Diseases -

UniPID - Finnish University Partnership for International Development / FinCEAL Plus, the Embassy of Finland in Singapore and the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine organized a high-level research seminar focusing on Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation (STI) in personalized health and metabolic diseases, in Singapore, 28 November 2018 on the occasion of the visit of Ms. Pirkko Mattila, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, to Singapore and with the Guest of Honor Mr. Gan Kim Yong, the Minister for Health of Singapore attending the seminar. The seminar was supported by Team Finland, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Ministry of Education and Culture, Embassy of Finland in Singapore as well as other relevant entities from Singapore and Finland.

The seminar gathered together over 85 experts from academia (including young scientists and experienced researchers), industry (including business developers, innovators and investors) as well as Government representatives and other stakeholders from Singapore and Finland to present and discuss about personalized health and metabolic disease related topics. The topics included design of effective health policies and renewal of care systems based on scientific evidence, the use of novel technologies and solutions such ash highthroughput omics, novel diagnostic and monitoring solutions, integration of personal health and wellness data and the use of AI as an enabling technology.

The seminar was a continuum on the topics discussed at the Singapore Ministerial Conference on Diabetes at the beginning of that seminar week. The cooperation initiatives suggested may also contribute to the World Health Organisation (WHO) efforts to address the growing challenges of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and health related sustainable development goals discussed during that week. Both the Finnish Minster of Social Affairs and Health, Ms. Pirkko Mattila, and Singaporean Minister for Health, Mr. Gan Kim Yong, have been appointed to a high-level WHO Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases. Incidentally, one of the three co-chairs of the Commission is President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö.

The seminar opening statements were given by Dr. Khay-Guan Yeoh, Dean of the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Ms. Paula Parviainen, Ambassador of Finland in Singapore.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Ms. Pirkko Mattila gave the opening keynote and the first seminar keynote speech was given by Prof. Yap Seng Chong from the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

In his speech Prof. Chong, discussed about "The War on Diabetes Begins Before conception” and at first gave an overview of Growing Up in Singapore Towards Health Outcomes – GUSTO study and its translational impact and turning research into health policy. He then discussed about uncovering the hidden epidemic of Gestational Diabetes (GDM) and GDM recommendations in Singapore. He also talked about targeting diabetes before conception and what kind of procedures should be taken into account for example before and during the pregnancy.

The opening statement from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Finland was given by the Senior Ministerial Adviser Ms. Riina Vuorento. She introduced the basics about the Finnish higher education, research and science and the Research and Innovation Council of Finland’s Vision and Roadmap for 2030 where "Finland is the most attractive and competent environment for experiment and innovation in 2030”. She then continued discussing about the scientific impact by collaboration type in Finland and in comparison to other leading countries in science and research and introducing research related co-publication statistics between Finland and Singapore.

In the first session of the seminar: "Research in Cardiometabolic Diseases Prevention and Treatment” Prof. Jussi Pihlajamäki, The Dean at the University of Eastern Finland, Finland discussed about their StopDia (Stop Diabetes) Initiative in which "the science is integrated in the health system to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes”. In addition to the University of Eastern Finland, the project partners include other key research institutes in Finland such as VTT and National Institute for Health and Welfare and the project is targeting society, living environment and individuals and creating a personalized and cost effective approach to stop type 2 diabetes, as certain target regions being in focus in Finland. Prof. Pihlajamäki also discussed about their Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability – FINGER –project and compared it with a similar SINGER initiative in Singapore. He also concluded that to win the war on diabetes one must follow healthy lifestyle, and that the individual capacity to change behavior is critical. In addition, he also concluded that the integrated digital solutions provide evidence for efficiency.

The next speaker, Prof. Sulin Cheng from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland discussed about "effects and safety of exercise combined with Medication and diet in treatment of diabetes”. She talked about how nowdays the physical inactivity is changing the landscape and lifestyle related to cardiometabolic diseases and related scientific research questions, and how to prevent Type 2 diabetes by aerobic exercises combined with other important factors.

After a short break Associate Professor Fabian C.L. Lim from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore gave a speech about the "Research Strategy for Exercise medicine and Age-associated Chornic Diseases”. In his speech Prof. Lim first introduced the framework for ageing and health research and then discussed about aging process in aging and health. Then he continued about social and healthcare solution strategies and creating a link between the doctors and exercise trainers and participation processes related to different health trials and tests.

The next speaker Prof. Markus Perola from the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland gave a talk about strategies for evidence-based personalized medicine. He first introduced the Genome Wide Association Study in relation to Type 2 Diabetes markers and associated genetic risks. Then he introduced P5 FinHealth – "Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, Participatory and Population" study and a validation of type 2 diabetes in polygenic risk and metabolic scores and and e.g. showed questionnaires related to this study. He also introduced the FinnGen (2017-2024) project and its consortium of Finnish biobanks and pharma companies and the goals of the project and why these procedures in projects were originally created.

In her speech, Dr. Miina Öhman from the Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore discussed about finding DNA variants associated with diabetic kidney disease in Finnish and Singaporean populations. She first discussed about micro- and macrovascular complications of diabetes and clinical aspects of diabetic nephropathy (DN). She also mentioned that molecular pathogenesis of DN is poorly understood but has a genetic component and how Whole-Genome Sequence (WGS) analysis is performed and as an example, showed WGS analysis in Finnish Type-1 Diabetic siblings discordant for diabetic nephropathy as part FinnDiane study. FinnDiane is a cooperation project between researchers from the University of Oulu and University of Helsinki, Finland and Duke-NUS, Singapore. She also talked about similar study "Diabetes Study in Nephropathy and other Microvascular complications – DYNAMO” done in Singapore.

In the second sessions of the seminar: "Solutions for Diabetes Prevention and Treatment” Dr. Joni Kettunen, the CEO of Firstbeat, Finland with a representative of Actxa, Singapore discussed about their health and performance analytics and their engine based on heart rate variability analysis. He also introduced the research collaboration they are having along with their scientific peer-reviewed publications and current research on diabetes.

The next speaker, Mr. Jokke Mäki, the CEO of Glucomodicum, Finland talked about their platform for painless and needle-free health and glucose monitoring. He introduced the prototype device, and showed how unique their invention is compared to the other current monitoring devices in the market.

The final session speech of the seminar was given by Dr. Matti Hämäläinen, from Nightingale, Finland. He discussed about chornic diseases in Asia including cardiovascular and diabetes prevalences and prediabetic individuals. He also showed Nightingale Health’s comprehensive metabolic biomarker analysis solutions for personalized risk assessment and for its follow-up for being applicable to population-wide programs. He also discussed about their biomarker platform for chronic diseases and further scientific evidences from CVD and diabetes, and Neurological disease research.

The sessions were followed by an interactive roundtable "How to Win the War on Diabetes – the Next 10 Years?” of presentations about concrete opportunities for cooperation between Singapore and Finland identifying breakthrough targets for cooperation in science, technology and health policy outlining a roadmap with immediate, medium and long-term milestones with open discussion and Expressions-of-Interest in Joining the suggested activities.

After the interactive roundtable session, the day concluded with a Singapore-Finland networking, buffet dinner and cocktails for in-depth discussions about cooperation opportunities.

UniPID-FinCEAL Plus warmly thanks the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the Embassy of Finland in Singapore for co-organizing the event Special thanks also goes to Team Finland for their support, and all the speakers, panelists and participants for their active engagement. We hope that the event has managed to create links that enable more cooperation between our countries and regions in the near future.

Download the programme of the seminar. Seminar presentations available soon.

Photos:Tatyana Kildisheva