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Ocular Epidemiology Research Group


The Ocular Epidemiology Research Group, led by Professor Cheng Ching-Yu , conducts and coordinates epidemiological and population-based projects under the Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases (SEED) programme. Our strategic vision is to provide novel knowledge in population health to enable the dissecting, detecting and preventing of the most prevalent ocular diseases in both our children and aging populations in Singapore and Asia. We hope to promote and improve global eye health.

Our Vision

We are a world-leading research programme focusing specifically on the epidemiology and impact of eye diseases in Asia. We aim to:            

  • Provide a one-stop “data portal” and information source on the epidemiology of Asian eye diseases

  • Cover an entire spectrum of prevalence, incidence, risk factors, and impacts of Asian eye diseases in three major racial/ethnic groups (Chinese, Malays, Indians)

  • Facilitate “precision public health” by providing the right intervention to the right population at the right time in the future

Our Aims

  • To document the prevalence, incidence, risk factors and public health significance of blinding eye diseases in Singapore and Asia through the conduct of large scale epidemiological studies

  • To foster international collaborations with other public health and ophthalmic institutes in Asia and worldwide

  • To provide research expertise, training and consultation to other researchers and ophthalmic institutions in Singapore and Asia


Population Cohorts
The SEED programme includes more than 21,000 adult and children participants from seven large population-based studies, with a focus on studying major eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, refractive errors and cataract.


  Age range



  Data Collected

Singapore Malay Eye Study (SiMES)

40-80 years



Prevalence, environmental and genetic risk factors, images, and impacts of visual impairment and major eye diseases

Singapore Indian Eye Study (SINDI)

40-80 years



​Prevalence, incidence rates, progression, and risk factors of myopia in children

Singapore Chinese Eye Study (SCES)

40-80 years



​Magnitude and causes of refractive errors and other ocular diseases

The Singapore Prospective Study Programme (SP2) Ancillary study

24-95 years

Chinese, Malays and Indians


Prevalence, environmental and genetic risk factors, and impacts of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases (e.g., hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, and diabetes mellitus)

Polyclinic Study

50+ years



Ocular and image biomarkers for glaucoma

Singapore Cohort Study of the Risk Factors for Myopia (SCORM)

7-9 years

Chinese, Malays and Indians


Prevalence, incidence rates, progression, and risk factors of myopia in children

STrabismus, Amblyopia, and Refractive Error study of preschool Singapore children (STARS)

6 to 72 months



Magnitude and causes of refractive errors and other ocular diseases


Current Research Projects


  Principal Investigator


Singapore Diabetic Retinopathy, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Imaging (DREAM) Program

Prof Wong Tien Yin

2013 - 2019

Retinal Microvascular Abnormalities as Predictors of Decline in Kidney Function in the Singapore Indian Eye Study Cohort

Assoc Prof Charumathi Subanayagam

2015 - 2018

The Singapore Chinese Eye Study 2 (SCES-2): Prospective Cohort Study of 6-year Incidence, Risk Factors, and Impact of Major Age-related Eye Diseases

Prof Cheng Ching-Yu

2015 - 2019

Characterizing the Role of Iris Surface Features in Iris Sponginess and their relevance to Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Prof Cheng Ching-Yu

2016 - 2019

Deep Phenotyping and Genetic Landscaping of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma

Prof Cheng Ching-Yu

2017 - 2022

Diabetes Study on Nephropathy and Other Microvascular Complications (DYNAMO): Retinal Microvasculature as a Window to Study Mechanisms and Pathways in Diabetic Nephropathy

Prof Wong Tien Yin

2017 - 2022

The Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases (SEED) Study 3: Prospective Multi-ethnic Cohort Study of 12-year Incidence, Risk factors, and Impact of Major Age-related Eye Diseases

Prof Cheng Ching-Yu

2018 - 2021

Translational Asian Age-related macular degeneration Program (TAAP):  Population Health: Characterizing Disease Burden, Novel and Genetic Risk Factors in Asians

Prof Wong Tien Yin & Prof Cheng Ching-Yu

2018 - 2023


Research Competencies and Expertise

The Ocular Epidemiology Research Group brings together innovative epidemiological research and cutting-edge technology, such as a next-generation sequencing and artificial intelligence, with a focus on our theme-oriented strategy. Our group has multi-disciplinary expertise in all aspects of clinical and epidemiological research. We mainly research and develop the following areas:

  • Prevalence, incidence and risk factors

  • Genetics and biomarkers

  • Advanced ocular imaging

We have established Singapore as a leading hub of ophthalmic epidemiology, clinical and genetic research in Asia with a particular focus on diseases that are prevalent in this region. Data collected from the SEED study has been used widely by national and international agencies (e.g. the Ministry of Health [MOH] Singapore, the World Health Organization, the Global Burden of Disease programme, etc.) and clinical guidelines (e.g. 2014 MOH Diabetes Guidelines, 2016 Asia Pacific Glaucoma Guidelines, 2016 American Diabetes Association Guidelines, 2017 International Council of Ophthalmology Diabetic Eye Care Guidelines). The data has been used to provide estimates of eye disease burden to set up the national DR screening. It also assists both the MOH’s planning for healthcare manpower (future ophthalmology and optometry manpower) and the College of Ophthalmology’s planning for the National Ophthalmology Road Map 2030 plan in Singapore.

In addition, we also provide research expertise, resource, and consultation for other research centres, hospitals and ophthalmic institutions in Singapore and Asia. We conduct training programmes for clinicians, research fellows and graduate students interested in ophthalmic epidemiology.


  1. Cheng CY, et al. Nine loci for ocular axial length identified through genome-wide association studies, including shared loci with refractive error. American Journal of Human Genetics 2013;93:264-77.

  2. Tham YC, et al. Global prevalence of glaucoma and projections of glaucoma burden through 2040: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ophthalmology 2014;121:2081-90.

  3. Wong WL, et al. Global prevalence of age-related macular degeneration and disease burden projection for 2020 and 2040: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Global Health 2014;2:e106-16.

  4. Liao J, et al. Meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in multiethnic Asians identifies two loci for age-related nuclear cataract. Human Molecular Genetics 2014;23:6119-28.

  5. Hysi PG, et al. Genome-wide analysis of multi-ancestry cohorts identifies new loci influencing intraocular pressure and susceptibility to glaucoma. Nature Genetics 2014;46:1126-30.

  6. Wong CW, et al. Kidney and eye diseases: common risk factors, etiological mechanisms and pathways. Kidney International 2014;85:1290-302.

  7. Chua J. et al. Ethnic differences of intraocular pressure and central corneal thickness: the Singapore epidemiology of eye diseases study. Ophthalmology 2014;121:2013-22.

  8. Sabanayagam C, et al. Diagnosis of diabetes mellitus using HbA1c in Asians: relationship between HbA1c and retinopathy in a multi-ethnic Asian population. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2015;100:689-96.

  9. Cheng CY, et al. New loci and coding variants confer risk for age-related macular degeneration in East Asians. Nature Communications 2015;6:6063.

  10. Chua J, et al. Prevalence, risk factors, and visual features of undiagnosed glaucoma: the Singapore epidemiology of eye diseases study. JAMA Ophthalmolgy 2015;133:938-46.

  11. Tham YC, et al. Aggregate effects of intraocular pressure and cup-to-disc ratio genetic variants on glaucoma in a multiethnic Asian population. Ophthalmology 2015;122:1149-57.

  12. Sabanayagam C, et al. Visual impairment in old and very old community-dwelling Asian adults. Ophthalmology 2016;123:2436-8.

  13. Ting D, et al. Development and validation of a deep learning system for diabetic retinopathy and related eye diseases using retinal images from multiethnic populations with diabetes. JAMA 2017;318:2211-23.

  14. Sobrin L, et al. Genetically determined plasma lipid levels and risk of diabetic retinopathy: a mendelian randomization study. Diabetes 2017;66:3130-41.

  15. Sabanayagam C, Cheng CY. Global causes of vision loss in 2015: are we on track to achieve the Vision 2020 target? Lancet Global Health 2017;5:e1164-5.



Prof Cheng Ching Yu

Deputy Head

Assoc Prof Charumathi Sabanayagam

Investigators & Fellows

  • Dr Tham Yih Chung

  • Dr Simon Nusinovici

  • Dr Neelam Kumari

  • Dr Tao Yijin

Research Associate

  • Dr Shivani Majithia

  • Dr Sahil Thakur

  • Dai Wei

  • Chai Xiaoran

Clinical Team

  • Teo Cong Ling

  • Cynthia Ong

  • Binu Thapa

  • Rosesita Binte Shaikh

  • Manivannan Udayaraj   

Biobank Laboratory

  • Chee Miao Ling

  • Michelle Ng

Research Admin

  • Angelina Lee

  • Riswana Banu

  • Munirah Naser