February 2013|ISSUE 4
Distinguished Names at LKCMedicine

Professor Bernhard Boehm

LKCMedicine is pleased to announce that a top name in metabolic disease research is joining the medical school. LKCMedicine has appointed Professor Bernhard Boehm, an internationally renowned expert in clinical an experimental diabetes immunology, to be a part of its distinguished global faculty. Professor Boehm’s appointment represents a move forward for Singapore in tackling the issue of increasing number of diabetes, obesity and heart disease patients here.

In emphasising the importance of his research focus, Professor Boehm pointed out that metabolic diseases such as those brought on by high blood glucose levels have implications on other illnesses such as pneumonia and leukaemia.

Professor Boehm is a strong believer in inter-disciplinary work, stressing that researchers from different fields should work together and seek out correlations in their respective findings. This would help combat and manage various diseases better, he says. Strong government support, like what he sees in Singapore, is also an important factor totackle metabolic diseases.

“In my younger days, I was an active sportsman and I was regularly playing volleyball which is a team-based sport. I believe in working together as a team. You can have more success in a team, rather than someone working alone in a corner who does not talk to anyone.”

Professor Boehm also lets on that maintaining regular exercise and a healthy diet is the key to preventing metabolic diseases. The active person that he is, Professor Boehm says the one thing he misses about his hometown in Germany is the skiing during winter. But he is looking forward to the exciting research opportunities at LKCMedicine and is confident of doing well in Singapore. He is already off to a good start - his wife has already fallen in love with Singapore!

Professor Per Olof Berggren

World renowned scientific leader and expert in experimental endocrinology Professor Per Olof Berggren reveals that LKCMedicine’s and NTU’s vision in offering a niche milieu in metabolic disease research is the key factor that persuaded him to set up his research programme in islet cell biology in Singapore. The expert in diabetes research and Head of Cell Biology and Experimental Endocrinology at Karolinska Institutet has recently been appointed a Visiting Professor at LKCMedicine.

The increase in metabolic disease especially in Western society today, and the higher numbers of diabetes patients worldwide, drives him to want to understand diabetes and diabetes progression better, says Professor Berggren in an interview with The LKCMedicine. The hope is that his research will result in better information for drug companies, to develop better medication.

While in Singapore, Professor Berggren wishes to investigate why there is a high incidence of people with diabetes in Singapore. He hopes that his research will be a part of a world-class diabetic research enterprise in Singapore that will increase public awareness about diabetes and encourage society to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Here at LKCMedicine, Professor Berggren will establish a state-of-the- art research programme in islet
cell biology using a combination of in-vivo imaging, electrophysiology and molecular techniques. To complement the studies of islet cell function, Professor Berggren plans to explore collaborations with the Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences, A*STAR, Singapore Eye Research Institute and the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Clinical Research Unit.

“The milieu that LKCMedicine is building around diabetes and metabolism is very exciting. The people that are now engaged in research related to metabolic disorders are very good and it will be exciting to work with them,” he says.

Professor Walter Wahli

 

LKCMedicine continues to attract top talent for metabolic research. One of them is Professor Walter
Wahli, a pioneer who achieved worldwide recognition for discovering the medically relevant Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors and demonstrating the central physiological significance of these regulatory proteins in metabolism, inflammation and wound healing.

Talking to The LKCMedicine, Professor Wahli says in joining the School as Visiting Professor, he is convinced that Singapore is one of the few places that allows for multidisciplinary projects that can be developed in close proximity. Furthermore, the School has identified metabolic disease as one of its priorities.

Professor Wahli seeks to study metabolism in late pregnancy and post-natal life as those stages in
life marks a significant change in a human being’s metabolic processes. He wants to explore further the nutritional changes and alterations that is characterised by a dramatic change in energy supply in an infant from pre-birth to birth.

“Our goal is to generate knowledge that will help to improve the prenatal life period. This knowledge
might contribute to improving life for pre-term born children and for children suffering from inborn
errors of metabolism. This research will increase our understanding of metabolic dysfunction with possible impact on cognition,” he says.

Professor Wahli hopes that his research programme will bring together strong research groups in
Singapore and provide considerable synergistic effects to basic biomedical research in Singapore.

In the future, he plans to study the effect of genetic background on metabolism as the unique ethnic
make-up of Singaporeans is conducive for such research. This study may potentially allow researchers to identify the different nutrition needs of a person with regard to his genetic background.