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A*STAR. (8/12/10). "Press Release: A*STAR and Institut Mérieux/bioMérieux Invest S$3m in Tuberculosis Research. Partnership Could Lead to Improved Detection and Treatment of the Highly Infectious Disease that Affects Millions Worldwide".

Region Region Singapore
Organisation Organisation bioMérieux (Group)
  Group Mérieux (Group)
Products Product diagnostic test, tuberculosis
  Product 2 in vitro diagnostics (IVD)
Persons Person Castagnoli, Paola (A*STAR 201008 Scientific Director SIgN)
  Person 2 Kourilsky, Philippe (A*STAR 201008 Chairm SIgN)

1. An investment of S$3 million is being pumped into tuberculosis (TB) research by A*STAR's Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), bioindustrial group Institut Mérieux and its in vitro diagnostics company bioMérieux. The project, which involves setting up a joint laboratory in Biopolis, Singapore aims to investigate and identify novel biomarkers that could allow early identification of individuals at risk of TB disease development and disease reactivation. This could lead to better diagnosis and treatment for the highly contagious disease.

2. At the shared lab, researchers from SIgN and bioMérieux will study the immune cells in the blood of infected individuals without active TB, and compare them with those in individuals with active TB, as well as non-infected healthy controls. Any change in gene expression and behaviour of the immune cells will then be analysed to identify biomarkers associated with TB infection and/or TB re-activation. This information would be especially pertinent to clinicians and researchers as current tests cannot reliably detect if the individual is at risk of developing the disease. In addition, the identification of predictive biomarkers will also help clinicians accurately assess patients' responses to TB treatment and deal appropriately with those who have developed drug resistance to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for causing TB. This will lead to early and accurate assessment of the effectiveness of treatment in TB patients.

3. One of the lead researchers involved in the collaboration is Prof Paola Castagnoli, Scientific Director of SIgN. Said Prof Castagnoli, "The risk of developing active TB is higher in persons with weak immune systems, especially in those infected with HIV, and young children under the age of five. There is an urgent need to understand and find new ways to eradicate the disease - through prediction, early detection and effective treatment - and this timely collaboration seeks to accomplish exactly that." Prof Castagnoli was part of a team of scientists that published findings[1] on the way dendritic cells and macrophages cope with Mycobacterium tuberculosis in 2008.

4. The co-investigator on the project, Professor Christian Brechot, who is also the Vice President of Institut Mérieux in charge of scientific and medical affairs, said, "We are very pleased with this partnership between Institut Merieux, bioMérieux and SIgN. It reflects the strategy of Institut Mérieux and its companies to establish long-term partnerships with internationally recognised research institutions, in particular in Singapore. The joint laboratory will focus its activities on tuberculosis, as part of Institut Mérieux's research programs, as well as on oncology. We look forward to the success of this important agreement."

5. Prof Philippe Kourilsky, Chairman of SIgN, said, "Infectious disease is an area that cannot be tackled alone - Singapore has identified infectious diseases as one of its flagship areas of focus for its research efforts and is working closely with its regional and global partners; SIgN already has some meaningful partnerships with several industry players including Cytos and Vivalis. We are excited at this opportunity to partner Institut Mérieux and bioMérieux, which we hope will accelerate the process of discovery and find something of direct impact to the treatment and management of tuberculosis. This collaboration will reinforce SIgN's position as a premier immunology research centre that focuses on addressing the pressing diseases facing Singapore and the region."

Background on tuberculosis

6. Currently, over two billion people or one third of the world's total population are infected with the bacterium that causes TB, and about one in every 10 of these people will develop active TB in his or her lifetime. According to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) 2009 update on TB, about 1.8 million[2] people died from TB worldwide in 2008, including some 500,000 people infected with HIV. TB is also a lead killer of people with HIV/AIDS, and people who are HIV-positive and infected with TB are 20 to 40 times more likely to develop active TB than people not infected with HIV living in the same country[3]. WHO also released a report in 2009 highlighting the alarming spread of Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases in all the 81 countries it surveyed - the highest rates ever recorded of MDR-TB. The same report also revealed that extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) was prevalent in 45 countries, a situation that threatened to derail 10 years of progress in TB control and HIV management.

7. In Singapore, the 1,451 recorded cases of TB in 2008 marked the first time the incidence rate per 100,000 residents had increased in 10 years[4]. There were 1,442 new reported cases of TB among Singapore residents in 2009.


For queries and further clarification, please contact:
Wang Yunshi (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Tel: (65) 6826 6443

About the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN)

The Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), officially inaugurated on 15 January 2008, is a research consortium under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)'s Biomedical Research Council. The mandate of SIgN is to advance human immunology research and participate in international efforts to combat major health problems. Since its launch, SIgN has grown rapidly and currently includes 150 scientists from 25 different countries of the world working under 20 renowned principal investigators. At SIgN, researchers investigate immunity during infections and inflammatory conditions including cancer and are supported by cutting edge technological research platforms and core services. Through this, SIgN aims to build a strong platform in basic human immunology research for better translation of research findings into clinical applications. SIgN also sets out to establish productive links with local and international institutions, and encourage the exchange of ideas and expertise between academic, industrial and clinical partners and thus contribute to a vibrant research environment in Singapore.
For more information about SIgN, please visit

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences, and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and seven consortia & centres, which are located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their immediate vicinity.

A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local and international partners.

For more information about A*STAR, please visit

About Institut Mérieux

With extensive experience in industrial biology, Institut Mérieux contributes to serving medicine and public health across the globe. For the fight against infectious diseases and cancer, it imagines and develops new approaches in the fields of diagnostics, immunotherapy, and food safety and nutrition.

With its three business activities- bioMérieux, Transgene and Silliker-Institut Mérieux has the potential to provide answers to the new challenges of public health globally: personalized medicine and new therapies, infectious diseases and cancer, food safety and nutrition.
bioMérieux, listed on NYSE Euronext Paris and 59% owned, is based in Marcy l'Etoile (France). World leader of in vitro diagnostics and industrial microbiological controls.

Transgene: Based in Strasburg (France), this biotech company is 55% controlled and is listed on NYSE Euronext Paris. It develops immunotherapy products for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases.

Silliker is a privately-owned company, 86% controlled, based in Chicago (United States), encompassing a network of nearly 50 laboratories dedicated to improving food safety and nutrition.

Institut Mérieux employs nearly 10,000 people in the service of public health worldwide and generates net sales of over 1.4 billion Euros.

About bioMérieux
Advancing Diagnostics to Improve Public Health

A world leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics for over 45 years and part of Institut Mérieux, bioMérieux is present in more than 150 countries through 39 subsidiaries and a large network of distributors. In 2009, revenues reached €1,223 million with 85% of sales outside of France. bioMérieux provides diagnostic solutions (reagents, instruments, software) which determine the source of disease and contamination to improve patient health and ensure consumer safety. Its products are used for diagnosing infectious diseases and providing high medical value results for cancer screening and monitoring and cardiovascular emergencies. They are also used for detecting microorganisms in agri-food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. bioMérieux is listed on the NYSE Euronext Paris market (Symbol: BIM - ISIN: FR0010096479).
Other information can be found at

[1] These findings were published in the scientific journal PLoS One in 2008, and may be found in the article titled, "Probing host pathogen cross-talk by transcriptional profiling of both Mycobacterium tuberculosis and infected human dendritic cells and macrophages". Reference: PLoS One. 2008 Jan 2;3(1):e1403.

[2]Source: World Health Organisation's 2009 update on tuberculosis

[3] Source: World Health Organisation's 2009 update on tuberculosis

[4]Source: Ministry of Health, Singapore

Record changed: 2019-06-09


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