Unparalleled funding for the future

Marcus Wallenberg, Vice Chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation’s Board of Directors (left), and NTU President Prof Subra Suresh. Credit: NTU.

To help the next generation of brilliant scientists bring promising ideas to fruition, NTU President Prof Subra Suresh has created the NTU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship (PPF). Each two-year-long fellowship comes with mentorship by NTU faculty and up to S$100,000 (~US$73,000) in research funding per annum.

The Fellowship received substantial support through two philanthropic gifts from abroad. A donation of S$2 million (US$1.5 million) from Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman of Axilor Ventures and co-founder of Indian IT giant Infosys, helped to establish the Gopalakrishnan-NTU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship, while another donation of 50 million Swedish kronor (~S$7.6 million, US$5.5 million) from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation was used to set up the Wallenberg-NTU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship.

With matching from the Singapore government, the endowment for Wallenberg-PPF fellows amounts to S$11.4 million (US$8.3 million). Fellows who spend one of their two fellowship years in Sweden in affiliation with the Wallenberg Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems and Software Programme will receive additional financial support through a further gift of S$5 million (US$3.6 million) from the Foundation. This is the largest foreign philanthropic gift in NTU’s history.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has also donated S$9 million (US$6.5 million) to attract up to 40 young Swedish scientists to NTU over the next six years.

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In line with the growing national interest in tackling dementia, a consortium of 17 neuroscientists and clinicians has received a large grant of up to S$20 million (US$14.5 million) over five years to shed light on the neurobiological causes of dementia.

Led by Prof George Augustine of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, NTU’s joint medical school with Imperial College London, the research project, titled “Defining the brain circuitry defects that cause dementia”, aims to find commonalities between different neurodegenerative diseases—from behavioural changes and brain anatomy to neural activities.

“Dementia is associated with a number of diseases, in particular neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Down syndrome and others,” says Prof Augustine.

With the help of mice and primate models of dementia-associated diseases, as well as clinical samples and MRI scans of dementia patients, the scientists aim to pinpoint the brain regions and neuronal mechanisms involved in dementia. Ultimately, they hope to identify the causative mechanisms of dementia as well as potential targets for therapeutic interventions.

This article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #14, December 2018).

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