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Strengthening international global health research

National University of Singapore and Berlin University Alliance supporting five joint research projects

News from Mar 23, 2021

As part of the Berlin/Singapore research partnership of the Berlin University Alliance (BUA), five new projects are set to receive funding. Their research in global health and health innovation will cover aspects such as the healthcare of tomorrow, digital health technology, and micro-robots. A total of 134,000 euros has been earmarked for funding up to March 2022.

With their “Joint Call for Research Proposals – Global Health Initiative”, the BUA and the National University of Singapore (NUS) want to further strengthen their cooperation in top-level research and focus on selected topics with a high degree of relevance for both strategic partners. For example, the BUA is dedicating its second Grand Challenge Initiative to global health. With its Grand Challenge Initiatives, the BUA is increasingly addressing social challenges of global significance. Through its four research-oriented partner institutions – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin – and numerous partnerships both within the Berlin research environment and overseas, the BUA is offering the interdisciplinary and cross-institutional approach required for global research topics.

“The successful partnership with the National University of Singapore is becoming even more important with the focus on the Grand Challenge Initiative: Global Health of the BUA. The impressive research proposals for this call tell us that there is plenty of potential for a further expansion of this research partnership. I’m delighted that we've managed to create synergies between the Grand Challenge Initiative and the interests of our partner in Singapore,” says Dr. Ulrike Hillemann-Delaney, director of the department for International Affairs at Technische Universität Berlin and spokesperson of the BUA’s Internationalization steering committee.

The term Global Health encompasses concepts for improving health in a globalized world. It not only tackles questions such as effective medical treatment of disease, it also examines social aspects, environmental protection and climate change, urban planning, and global nutrition. Health Innovation covers research projects that contribute to innovation in medicine through the use of artificial intelligence and other novel technologies, for example.

Details about Global Health projects

Integrated Care for Older Adults Living in Urban Areas – Assessing Health and Social Care Needs, Prof. Wolfram Herrmann, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, und Associate Prof. Angelique Chan, NUS

In this project, researchers from Singapore and Berlin come together and examine the challenges presented by demographic development and urbanization for the healthcare of tomorrow. The focus is on assessing the needs of older people in the context of medical and social care in an urban environment. The project aims to strengthen the collaboration of researchers working on the topic of care for the elderly across health systems and cultural boundaries.

Smart wearables and digital health interventions, Prof. Roland Eils, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, und Prof. Falk Mueller-Riemenschneider, NUS

Smartphones and smart wearables offer considerable potential for public health and personalized medicine. However, this development is not without its challenges; for example, there is limited evidence of effectiveness, interest and use tend to drop off dramatically over time, and the health-related data collected is often complex and incomplete. The project establishes close interdisciplinary collaboration within existing intervention projects in Berlin and Singapore with the goal of expanding existing expertise at both locations and further developing standardized approaches and solutions for dealing with smart wearables.

The retina as a window to vascular and neurological disorders, Dr. rer. medic. Hanna G. Zimmermann, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, und Prof. Tien Y. Wong, NUS

The partners in Berlin and Singapore employ world-leading researchers for deep learning methods in retinal imaging in vascular medicine (Singapore) and neurology (Berlin). In this seed project, as a legal and technical prerequisite for long-term collaboration, the researchers aim to create a platform that enables artificial intelligence-based analysis methods to be shared. In addition, there are plans to create an image repository for future projects.

Details about Health Innovation projects

Artificial intelligence for controlling medical micro-robots, Prof. Holger Stark, Technische Universität Berlin, und Assistant Prof. Lailai Zhu, NUS

Micro-robots for use in minimally invasive surgery, local administration of medication, and imaging represent a feasible vision in medicine. In such tasks, it is important to maneuver the micro-robots precisely to specific locations in the body. This can be done externally with the help of a control unit. However, this project is going down a different path: The researchers are using artificial intelligence methods that the micro-robot can use to learn how to steer itself to a specific location in the body.

Visualizing inner structures of chromosomes using molecular microscopy, Dr. Christoph Andreas Diebolder, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, und Associate Prof. Lu Gan, NUS

In this project, researchers at Charité's Cryo-EM Core Facility and the NUS working group led by Prof. Lu Gan are jointly studying the structure of human chromosomes. The special equipment at the facility, which only recently became operational on the campus in Berlin-Buch, enables the three-dimensional imaging of molecules within the cell at almost atomic resolution. The researchers hope to use these findings to gain new insights into the molecular mechanisms of aging and associated diseases.


The Berlin University Alliance

The Berlin University Alliance is a consortium consisting of three major Berlin universities – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin – and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, established to shape research and education in Berlin. The four partners joined forces to further develop Berlin as a research hub with international drawing power. Together the partners explore major societal challenges, increase public outreach, promote the training of junior researchers, address issues of quality and standards in research, and share resources in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equal opportunities, and internationalization. The Berlin University Alliance is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the state of Berlin under the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the Länder.

Joint press release by Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin along with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Press contact

Hans-Christoph Keller, acting press spokesperson of the Berlin University Alliance and press spokesperson of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Email: medien@berlin-university-alliance.de 

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