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NTU Provost receives prestigious Imperial College fellowship joining the ranks of top UK scientists

Professor Freddy Boey, Provost of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has received the prestigious Faculty of Medicine Fellowship by Imperial College London, for his contribution to biomedical sciences.

The Fellowship was awarded to Prof Boey on Tuesday evening (12 Feb, 6pm London time), at Imperial College's Faculty of Medicine, in recognition of his exceptional achievements in medical technology and his outstanding contributions to the development of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine - a joint medical school between NTU and Imperial College.

A renowned serial inventor, Prof Boey, had developed many innovative medical devices, which include a customisable hernia mesh, most recently approved for sale by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This NTU-developed hernia mesh is the first such surgical mesh to be passed by the FDA.

Prof Boey, 56, will be joining an illustrious list of Fellows, which include UK's first female professor of surgery, Prof Averil Mansfield; Director of the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) Dr Pontiano Kaleebu; Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer of England and inventor Professor Mark Brian Pepys who was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to biomedicine.

Imperial's Faculty of Medicine Fellows are elected annually and are awarded to those who have demonstrated outstanding achievements or who have rendered exceptional service to the Faculty. They are also awarded to those of outstanding distinction in the appropriate fields, whom the Faculty wishes to honour.

Prof Boey, who has 25 global patents to his name, has invented breakthrough biomedical devices like the world's smallest piezo heart pump, several types of drug eluting and biodegradable stents as well as a disposable surgical tissue retractor.

Latest innovation by Prof Boey to hit world market

Prof Boey's made in Singapore hernia mesh is the first of its kind to be approved for sale by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the team is in talks to test it in local hospitals by year-end.

Hernia meshes are commonly used by doctors to repair tears in the abdominal walls caused by various reasons such as injuries, pregnancy, surgery or aging.

The market for hernia repair is reported to be worth US$1.1 billion in 2011 (Frost & Sullivan 2011) in the United States, which makes up about half the global market. The demand for hernia repair procedures is expected to increase, with the rise in elderly population and growing obesity in affluent countries.

"This milestone is a great example of how Singapore and NTU have caught up with the world in terms of biomedical research and development," said Prof Boey. "As our mesh is fabricated in a different way from conventional meshes, we are now able to have different mesh patterns to tailor fit it to specific patients and for the different implant locations in the body."

The new medical mesh would be useful for Singapore's ageing population, where by 2030, one in five residents is expected to be 65 or older.

"With a fast aging population, devices like this mesh will help improve the quality of life for our aging folks," said Prof Boey. "A longer trouble free mesh life will mean less trauma and better quality of life for our aging citizens. I also hope this new device will also help to entrench Singapore as a nation able to create world-class innovations."

Moving forward, the team is looking to further develop the device to suit the different requirements by doctors and to make the mesh easier to use and to improve its comfort level for patients, said Prof Boey.

NTU start-up to market hernia mesh; sale in Singapore expected soon

The home-grown hernia mesh is now marketed and developed by NTU start-up company Medlinx Acacia. Known as the Medlinx Hernia Mesh, it is manufactured at a low cost and can be easily adapted for cutting into any patterns required by doctors - another of its advantage over existing meshes.

Medlinx Acacia was founded in 2009 by Prof Boey and his business partner Mr Tang King Fai, the company's Chief Executive Officer.

The Medlinx Hernia Mesh is made from a unique polymer known as polyvinylidene-flouride (PVDF), which has been proven to stay strong over longer periods of time and yet have lower inflammation and infection rates. It has been safely used in other medical products such as sutures and stents.

The material properties of PVDF addresses problems associated with the current hernia meshes, where some (traditional meshes) would become brittle and weak over time, and when is implanted, have a higher risk of inflammation and infection.

With FDA approval for its hernia mesh, Medlinx Acacia is now looking to get approval from Singapore's Health Sciences Authority for the product to be marketed locally, and is also in talks with Singapore hospitals to carry out clinical trials. Its surgical mesh, which is patented worldwide, is expected to be cleared for sale in Singapore by the second half of this year.

The company's CEO, Mr Tang, said: "We are constantly on the lookout for partners to develop new medical devices to address current unmet clinical needs."

Dr Andreas Hoeferlin, a renowned Hernia surgeon in the US with over 24 years of surgical experience, said: "From the scientific background, PVDF is probably the best material for mesh construction today and therefore I will use it as my first choice, as soon as an appropriate mesh will be available."

Contact: Lester Kok
Nanyang Technological University

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