New research centre to facilitate research into dengue, Zika

SINGAPORE – A new research centre will aid in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika by developing drug treatments against them.

The J&J Satellite Centre for Global Health Discovery, a partnership between Duke-NUS Medical School and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, launched on Tuesday (June 21).

It will focus on diseases caused by flaviviruses, for which no specific treatments currently exist, said Duke-NUS in a statement.

Flaviviruses – which also cause illnesses such as West Nile fever, tick-borne encephalitis and yellow fever – infect around 400 million people each year, said Duke-NUS.

Singapore has reported more than 15,800 cases of dengue this year, according to figures from the National Environment Agency – compared with 5,258 cases logged for the whole of last year.

Associate Professor Christopher Laing, vice-dean for innovation and entrepreneurship at Duke-NUS, said he was confident the centre would break new ground in curbing the threat of these diseases.

Dr Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, global public health research head at Janssen Research & Development under J&J, said: “Singapore is both a leading innovation and research hub and one of the epicentres of the dengue threat, making Duke-NUS a natural match for our vision to address flaviviruses by advancing innovative science.”

Duke-NUS recently worked with SingHealth’s Investigational Medicine Unit to conduct a clinical trial on Janssen’s antiviral compound for preventing and treating dengue.

At the 5th Asia Dengue Summit held in Singapore last week, researchers suggested that prophylactic drugs could be used effectively to prevent the spread of the dengue virus.

And in a forum letter to The Straits Times last month, Professor Tikki Pang, former director of research policy and cooperation at the World Health Organisation, also called for wider use of the Dengvaxia vaccine among seniors.

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