SINGAPORE, NOVEMBER 12: The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) and Johnson & Johnson Vision announced a US$26.35 million (S$36.35 million) research collaboration to tackle myopia, or near-sighted vision, the largest threat to eye health this century. By 2050, half of the world’s population are projected to be myopic, with one billion expected to have high myopia, a severe state of the condition that can lead to retinal disease with an increased risk of blindness.
The first-of-its-kind public-private strategic partnership in Asia focused on myopia will create a deeper understanding of how the condition develops, how it progresses and how it may be intercepted. It will focus on developing predictive tools to identify those who may be at risk to develop high myopia, conduct research on the underlying mechanisms of myopia, progress novel therapies and discover and validate methods to prevent the onset and progression of the condition.
“The incidence of myopia is increasing at an alarming rate around the world and if left unchecked, the human and financial toll could skyrocket in the coming decades, especially in Asia,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson. “We are delighted to be collaborating with SERI and SNEC to better understand the underpinnings of this condition and identify ways to halt this global public health threat,” he said. “Together, we hope to bring important progress to individuals and families throughout the Asia Pacific region and ultimately, around the world.”
“Documented increases in myopia, especially among young people, are a serious concern and if we can understand the underlying mechanisms that are contributing to its rapid rise, we can work to tackle the problem at its roots,” said Professor Aung Tin, Executive Director of SERI. “SERI is strongly committed to collaborating with leading companies to address eye diseases, and we are excited to be embarking on this research collaboration to break new ground against the epidemic.”
According to Professor Wong Tien Yin, Medical Director at the SNEC, the collaboration will bring together the right mix of resources, clinical and scientific experience, and intellect to create a leading centre for myopia research, clinical care and education practices designed to contribute substantially to regional and global efforts to fight the condition.
“SNEC is honoured to be working with collaborators coming together to address the growing burden of myopia,” Professor Wong said. “By leveraging the diverse strengths of our clinicians, clinician scientists and strategic partners to establish new disease frameworks and share this knowledge across world communities to help eradicate myopia.”
Myopia is the number one eye defect in the world. Myopia increases risk of retinal degeneration and detachment, cataracts and glaucoma. Unchecked, it will become the leading cause of irreversible vision impairment and blindness. The condition occurs when the eyeball becomes elongated due to environmental and genetic factors. Few modalities are currently approved by regulatory bodies to control myopia.
Significant Burden Projected Worldwide, With Biggest Impact in Asia
Five billion people globally are expected to have myopia by 2050. East Asia and Singapore will shoulder the greatest impact, with current prevalence rates among young people as high as 80 to 97 per cent concentrated in urban areas.
Children are the most vulnerable. For example, in China, among children aged six to 18, myopia prevalence rises from less than 10 to 80 per cent. Children who go on to develop high myopia are at a high risk for a lifetime of severe eye disease and permanent vision loss.
In Singapore, one in two children develop myopia by the age of 12, and 75 per cent of teenagers are myopic and rely on glasses. Uncorrected distance refractive errors, largely caused by myopia, are already estimated to cost global healthcare systems US$202 billion annually and this cost will rise exponentially with increased prevalence and severity of myopia in coming decades.
In Singapore alone, the annual direct cost of optical correction of myopia for Singaporeans has been estimated at US$755 million (S$1.04 billion).
Due to the complexity and scale of myopia, halting the epidemic will require a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses novel clinical research as well as innovations in education and clinical care. SNEC, SERI and Johnson & Johnson Vision intend to build on these efforts and convene other stakeholders to support broad-based strategies.
Johnson & Johnson Vision brings to this initiative deep expertise in optometry and ophthalmology backed by the strength, capabilities and reach of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, which are committed to solving complex global public health challenges. SERI and SNEC have a strong track record of high-impact eye research and excellence in clinical care that has paved the way for improvements in how eye diseases are detected, prevented and treated in Singapore, across Asia and on a global scale.
About the Strategic Partnership
The US$26.35 million (S$36.35 million) programme is a collaboration between Johnson & Johnson Vision and the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI), which is the research arm of the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), over three years. Johnson & Johnson Vision is making a US$15.78 million (S$21.77 million) investment, comprising cash and in-kind contributions, while SERI’s investment is US$10.57 million (S$14.58 million) in cash and in-kind contributions.
Johnson & Johnson Vision
Johnson & Johnson Vision has a bold ambition: to change the trajectory of eye health around the world. Through its operating companies, it delivers innovation that enables eye care professionals to create better outcomes for patients throughout their lives, with products and technologies that address unmet needs including refractive error, cataracts and dry eye. In communities with greatest need, it works in collaboration to expand access to quality eye care, and it is committed to helping people see better, connect better and live better.
More details at www.jjvision.com.
Follow @JNJVision on Twitter and Johnson & Johnson Vision on LinkedIn.
Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI)
Established in 1997, SERI is Singapore’s national research institute for ophthalmic and vision research. SERI’s mission is to conduct high impact eye research with the aim to prevent blindness, low vision and major eye diseases common to Singaporeans and Asians. SERI has grown from a founding team of five in 1997 to a faculty of 194, encompassing clinician scientists, scientists, research fellows, PhD students and support staff. This makes SERI one of the largest research institutes in Singapore and the largest eye research institute in Asia-Pacific. In addition, SERI has over 218 adjunct faculties from various eye departments, biomedical institutes and tertiary centres in Singapore.
SERI has amassed an impressive array of more than 3,295 scientific papers as of September 2018, and has secured more than S$307.9 million in external peer-reviewed competitive grants. To date, SERI’s faculty has been awarded more than 493 national and international prizes and filed more than 121 patents. Serving as the research institute of the Singapore National Eye Centre and affiliated to the Duke-NUS Medical School, National University of Singapore, SERI undertakes vision research in collaboration with local clinical ophthalmic centres and biomedical research institutions, as well as major eye centres and research institutes throughout the world. Today, SERI is recognised as a pioneering centre for high quality eye research in Asia, with breakthrough discoveries that has translated to significant paradigm shift in eye care delivery.
Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC)
Singapore National Eye Centre was incorporated in 1989 and commenced operations in 1990. It is the designated national centre within the public sector healthcare network, and spearheads and coordinates the provision of specialised ophthalmological services with emphasis on quality education and research. Since its opening in 1990, SNEC has achieved rapid growth and currently manages an annual workload of 330,000 outpatient visits, 34,000 major eye surgeries and laser procedures.
Ten subspecialties in Cataract, Cataract and Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Corneal and External Eye Disease, Glaucoma, Neuro-Ophthalmology, Oculoplastic and Aesthetic Eyeplastic, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Refractive Surgery, Ocular Inflammation and Immunology and Retina (Medical & Surgical) have been established to provide a full range of eye treatment from comprehensive to tertiary levels for the entire spectrum of eye conditions.
SNEC was accorded the Excellence for Singapore Award in 2003 for achieving excellence in the area of Ophthalmology, thrusting Singapore into international prominence. In 2006, SNEC received the first Minister for Health Award for public health. Three clinician scientists from Singapore National Eye Centre and Singapore Eye Research Institute were awarded the prestigious President’s Science and Technology Award in 2009, 2010 and 2014 for their outstanding contributions in translational, clinical and epidemiological research in cornea, retina and glaucoma.