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New UCL-Moorfields-Singapore partnership to drive eye health innovation

Pioneering eye research and world-class education are at the heart of a new partnership between Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI), Moorfields and UCL.

The UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and its strategic partner, Moorfields Eye Hospital, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI). Joint work will utilise some of the biggest advances in science and technology including artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analysis to meet the growing demand for ophthalmic services across the world.

The High Commissioner of the Republic of Singapore to the United Kingdom, Ms Foo Chi Hsia, was in attendance at the MoU signing ceremony on Tuesday 4 June 2019.

The four institutions have been working together for several decades across ophthalmology research, academic secondments and student education and have now agreed to formalise this relationship with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU is part of the Singapore-UK Partnership for the Future (P4F), a bilateral initiative launched in January 2019 to build on the historical linkages between the two countries and to launch new collaborative projects.
As part of this formal collaboration, scientists and practising clinicians from all four institutions will develop high-impact research projects and education aimed at curing eye disease, including two of the world’s most common forms of blindness - glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Multi-disciplinary research consortiums will be set up focusing on AI, Big Data and Tele-Ophthalmology. In addition, the MoU will target health-services related research aimed at addressing clinical questions on the diagnoses, detection of progression of eye diseases and the impact of new models of care.

The collaboration will also explore opportunities in education with the aim of meeting an increase in the demand for eye care training. Innovative ideas include new models (simulation and virtual reality) of ophthalmic surgical training; to co-develop online educational platform for nursing, optometrists and allied health staff; student and/or academic and administrative staff exchanges; and joint fellowship training programmes.

Professor Andrew Dick, Director of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “This formal partnership brings together four of the world’s leading eye and vision research centres, who share a passion for clinical, research and education excellence, to jointly deliver an ambitious plan for our field. By working together across research and education, we could well see the next significant breakthroughs in helping cure eye diseases and provide the best foundations to train the next generation of researchers and clinicians, who will become leaders in ophthalmology. UCL is committed to ground-breaking research which has global impact. We are also dedicated to finding solutions around the grand challenges around health, and this partnership exemplifies all these qualities.”

Professor Wong Tien Yin, Medical Director of Singapore National Eye Centre, said: “It is the East and West coming together in ophthalmology. Moorfields is recognised as the oldest, largest and most dynamic eye centre for its ophthalmic clinical service, education and research in Europe, while SNEC serves more than half the public’s eye care needs in Singapore and receives regular referrals for complex eye cases from our neighbours in South East Asia and other parts of Asia. SNEC looks forward to closer dialogue, faculty exchanges and skills transfer as we introduce new innovative care models in coping with a rapidly ageing demographic in both countries. The future is certainly very bright especially for the younger ophthalmologists, nurses and allied health staff.”

David Probert, chief executive of Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “This initiative connects internationally renowned eye experts from London and Singapore, which will create a significant global partnership. We are all extremely excited by what this unique collaboration will be able to achieve for eye disease and health care, acting as a melting pot of innovative research and clinical ideas, as well as being a conduit for sharing knowledge, resources and best practices. Furthermore, it cements an incredibly close relationship, which has existed since SNEC was founded almost 30 years ago, with many of the world’s leading ophthalmologists having worked at SNEC, Moorfields and UCL.”

Professor Aung Tin, Executive Director of Singapore Eye Research Institute, said: “This partnership offers a huge potential for taking our translational research capabilities to new heights. The synergies from this collaboration can also lead to more effective and impactful clinical care and better outcomes for eye patients of the UK as well as in Singapore and Asia and possibly around the world, especially for those with complex eye conditions such as corneal diseases, myopia, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma among the other eye conditions that we treat. These are exciting times for ophthalmology with new research platforms being developed such as personalised medicine and we look forward to building a formidable partnership.”