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NNI Special Signature Programme

Singapore Parkinson’s disease Translation Clinical Programme (SPARK)

Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects 3 in 1000 Singaporeans above 50 years of age. With our rapidly aging population, neurodegenerative diseases involving the brain pose a significant burden on our healthcare system. In the 2010 Singapore Burden of Disease Study, 35.5% of the entire burden of disease and injury in Singapore was borne by the elderly, aged 65 years and above. A high proportion of the years lived due to disability are due to neurodegenerative diseases.

SPARK, currently in its Phase II, is a national programme supported by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council under its Open Fund Large Collaborative Grant.

Our research programme aims to identify clinical, biochemical, imaging, and genetic biomarkers in clinical cohorts of patients that we have established in Singapore. We hope to develop a model to better stratify at-risk individuals and to manage, prevent and reduce PD progression. We are also involved in health services research to identify factors that influence healthcare costs and factors that can further improve quality of life for our patients. These research efforts involved multiple collaborators from both local and international clinical and academic institutions, industries, professional bodies and patient care organisations (e.g. MJ Fox Foundation, American Parkinson’s Foundation).

We aim to identify early disease biomarkers and novel targets and to conduct experimental therapeutic studies with the hope of bringing these targets to potential clinical trials. The following platforms are incorporated within SPARK to meet above aims:

  1. In vitroplatform 1:Pathophysiology studies in human and animal cell lines
  2. In vitro platform 2: Human-derived iPSCs and brain organoids to model Parkinson’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders
  3. In vivo platform: Drosophila, mouse and non-human primate models of Parkinson’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders
  4. Clinical trial: Clinical trials and diagnostic studies in movement disorders

News Release

The Straits Times, 27 October 2017. "Beautiful Science" section illustrate our Sci. Signal. Discovery.

The Team

From left to right: Prof Louis Tan, Research Director, NNI; Prof Lim Kah Leong, Vice Dean, LKC School of Medicine; Prof Tan Eng King, Deputy CEO (Academic Affairs), NNI; Prof Ng Huck Hui, Assistant Chief Executive, BMRC A*STAR; Prof Zhang Su-Chun, Programme Director, Duke-NUS Medical School.

Theme no.Theme Title ​Theme PIs and Institutions
​Theme 1
​Epidemiology/Health Services/Genetics​Prof Louis Tan Chew Seng, NNI
​Theme 2​Pathophysiology & Non-Human Primate Models​Prof Lim Kah Leong, NTU LKC Medicine
​Theme 3​Brain Organoids & Stem Cells ​Prof Ng Huck Hui, GIS A*STAR
​Theme 4​Regenerative Medicine​Prof Zhang Su-Chun, Duke-NUS Medical School
​Theme 5​Clinical Trials & Novel Therapeutics​Prof Tan Eng King, NNI


Our Scientific Advisory Board

  • Professor Dimitri Krainc (Northwestern University, USA)
  • Professor Jean-Marc Burgunder (University of Bern, Switzerland)
  • Professor Olivier Rascol (University UPS of Toulouse III, France)

Our Publications

  1. Jo J, Yang L, Tran HD, Yu W, Sun AX, Chang YY, Jung BC, Lee SJ, Saw TY, Xiao B, Khoo ATT, Yaw LP, Xie JJ, Lokman H, Ong WY, Lim GGY, Lim KL, Tan EK, Ng HH, Je HS. Lewy-body Like Inclusions in Human Midbrain Organoid Carrying Glucocerebrosidase and Alpha Synuclein Mutations. Annals of Neurology. 2021 Sep;90(3):490-505. doi: 10.1002/ana.26166.
  2. Sia MW, Foo JN, Saffari SE, Wong AS, Khor CC, Yuan JM, Tan EK, Koh WP, Tan LC. Polygenic Risk Scores in a Prospective Parkinson's Disease Cohort. Movement Disorders. 2021 Dec;36(12):2936-2940. doi: 10.1002/mds.28761.
  3. Tao Y, Vermilyea SC, Zammit M, Lu J, Olsen M, Metzger JM, Yao L, Chen Y, Philips S, Holden JE, Bondarenko V, Block WF, Barnhart TE, Schultz-Darken N, Brunner K, Simmons H, Christian B, Emborg ME, Zhang SC. Autologous Transplant Therapy Alleviates Motor and Depressive Behaviors in Parkinsonian Monkeys. Nature Medicine. 2021 Apr;27(4):632-639. doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-01257-1.
  4. Jang SE, Qiu L, Cai X, Lee JWL, Zhang W, Tan EK, Liu Bin, Zeng L. Aggregation-induced Emission (AIE) Nanoparticles Labeled Human Embryonic Stem Cells (hESCs)-derived Neurons for Transplantation. Biomaterials. 2021 Apr;271:120747. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120747.
  5. Sun AX, Yuan Q, Fukuda M, Yu W, Yan H, Lim GGY, Nai MH, D’Agostino GA, Tran HD, Itahana Y, Wang D, Lokman H, Itahana K, Lim SWL, Tang J, Chang YY, Zhang M, Cook SA, Rackman OJL, Lim CT, Tan EK, Ng HH, Lim KL, Jiang YH, Je HS. Potassium channel dysfunction in human neuronal models of Angelman syndrome. Science. 2019 Dec 20;366(6472):1486-1492. doi: 10.1126/science.aav5386.
  6. Lim SY, Tan AH, Ahmad-Annuar A, Klein C, Tan LCS, Rosales RL, Bhidayasiri R, Wu YR, Shang HF, Evans AH, Pal PK, Hattori N, Tan CT, Jeon B, Tan EK, Lang AE. Parkinson's disease in the Western Pacific Region. Lancet Neurology. 2019 Sep;18(9):865-879. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(19)30195-4.

Contact Us
Looking to collaborate with SPARK or have any queries?
SPARK grant manager, Ms. Ng Shin Hui, can be contacted at