Getting lively over lipids

Agilent and National University of Singapore begin research collaboration, marking Agilent’s first collaboration in lipidomics R&D worldwide

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Seeking to develop workflow solutions that would empower researchers to more accurately understand disease states, Agilent Technologies Inc. and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have partnered up to develop expertise and knowledge in the area of analytical lipidomics.

The collaborative work is expected to help further advances in the emerging field of lipidomics, and through their work, the two organizations hope to spearhead the creation of new classes of biomedical research tools and therapies.

Under the terms of the deal, Agilent's test and measurement instruments will be housed in the NUS Center for Lipidomics within the university's Life Sciences Institute, which is headed by Markus Wenk, an associate professor in the NUS Department of Biochemistry and Department of Biological Sciences. The center will host researchers from not just clinical, but also commercial entities in Singapore and the larger Asia Pacific region.

Agilent and NUS say the center grew out of a competitive five-year research program "and promises to be a global magnet for collaborating parties in lipidomics."

One of Agilent's key roles in this collaboration will be to support NUS with highly specialized instruments for the separation and analysis of lipids from complex mixtures using robotic systems, along with the latest bioinformatics software tools and electronic lab notebooks. Agilent will also ensure that NUS has access to its researchers both in Asia and the United States. NUS, for its part, will serve as a reference site for Agilent and guide Agilent in better understanding the needs of the research community. Continuing the synergies from there, Agilent will then use what it learns to further develop and enhance its instruments.

"Lipids play crucial roles in pathophysiology," says Prof. John Wong, dean of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. "The close proximity of this new center to clinical research and patient care at the National University Health System places us in a unique position for knowledge creation and translation in biomedicine."

In addition, Agilent and NUS have agreed to "explore opportunities in the field of lipidomics through collaborative research projects, short-term consultancies, customized training programs and workshops and participation at industry seminars and conferences to advance the level of knowledge in the field of lipidomics," the companies note in the news release about the deal.

Agilent had two minor application collaborations with American-based laboratories several years ago, says Dr. Rudolf Grimm, Agilent's director of science and technology and collaborations manager for the Asia Pacific region. But, as Grimm tells ddn, "this is the first true fundamental collaboration in lipidomics covering all aspects of the entire workflow from sample prep through data analysis."

Addressing the genesis of the deal, Grimm says several different aspects played into why this was the right time and the right partner.

"First of all, Agilent has no lipidomics workflow solution so far," he notes. "On the other hand, metabolomics is a key strategic area for the company. So, filling this gap was certainly a key driver. At the same time, we got approached by Prof. Wenk, who expressed great interest in collaborating with Agilent, as we have some very unique analytical instrumentation. We immediately understood that working together is a win-win situation."

Metabolomics is a key strategic area for Agilent, Grimm points out, adding, "Agilent is certainly well-known in the market to be a premier provider of analytical tools such as LCMS, GCMS, CEMS and NMR for metabolomics studies. Lipidomics is a 'sub-field' of metabolomics and only recently is gaining growing interest. So, the lipidomics market is still in its infancy, and investing now in this field through a collaboration with a key thought leader in this field makes a lot of strategic sense."

"This strategic partnership with NUS will raise the level of knowledge for lipidomics and potentially pave the way for developments in related fields of research such as life sciences, nutritional sciences or environment sciences," noted Rod Minett, Agilent's general manager for the Life Sciences Group for South Asia Pacific and Korea, in the news release about the deal. "We will collect insights into the use of our instruments in this complex research field and look to further develop and enhance our capabilities, not only in lipidomics, but also in related fields of research."

NUS is Singapore's flagship university, offering what it calls "a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise." NUS has 14 faculties and schools across three campuses as well as three Research Centres of Excellence and 22 university-level research institutes and centers. As for the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, it was established in 1905 as the first institution of higher learning in Singapore and served as the genesis of what would become the larger and broader NUS.

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