We are writing the future of medicine by nurturing our students, alumni and faculty to make greater things happen for patients.
Consolidating strengths
Last year, Duke-NUS Medical School and SingHealth adopted larger roles as Singapore entered its second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. While 2020 demanded nimble pivoting to respond to SARS-CoV-2, 2021 was a year of rapidly scaling up our combined impact on care, education and research, gaining our Academic Medical Centre (AMC) further international recognition.
We advanced scientific solutions—from cPassTM, the world’s first surrogate neutralising antibody test, to a novel way of measuring T cells—into patented and licensed innovations, that have opened new approaches for future SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development. In particular, our researchers identified a neutralising antibody generated by patients who have recovered from SARS-CoV-1 and have subsequently been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 that is powerful enough to protect against a wide range of coronavirus.
In a demonstration of the spirit of innovation that is flourishing on our campus, experts from SingHealth institutions, along with scientists from Duke-NUS and the National University of Singapore, developed and licensed a novel antigen rapid test (ART) that provides an alternative to nasal swabs by detecting the virus in saliva instead. Using a proprietary amplification technology, this ART’s accuracy is comparable with the gold standard, polymerase chain reaction testing.
These are among the many research discoveries that our scientists published across some 1,600 peer-reviewed publications, an increase on our scientific output from the year before.
While the Class of 2021 joined a frontline still very much engaged with COVID-19, the School welcomed our 15th cohort of MD students, the first to learn medicine in our COVID-endemic era. Among them were also the first students we admitted via our conditional admissions pathways, which are offered to outstanding students who wish to pursue graduate-entry medicine at Duke-NUS.
We embraced immersive learning, setting up a dedicated Immersive Learning Space that offers virtual dissection tables as well as augmented and virtual reality-guided study of the human anatomy. At the same time, we embarked on a periodic review of the curriculum which will see a revamped Year 1 curriculum rolled out in 2022, where patient interactions are firmly embedded from the outset of students’ medical training.
Beyond COVID-19, research discoveries and breakthrough findings in cancer, neuroscience, chronic diseases and ageing were published by experts from across our Signature Research Programmes and Centres.
Their high-impact publications further advanced our understanding of leading diseases and included uncovering more about Wnts, key cell-signalling proteins that influence cancer growth and progression, and assembling the world’s largest and highest-resolution atlas of gastric cancer, a leading cause of global cancer death. Our researchers made strides in tackling neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and microcephaly, and grew the first mini-brains to recreate the distinctive features of Parkinson’s disease only seen in human patients. They also found that a low-cost and readily scalable intervention can improve hypertension prevention and management, and determined that loneliness impacts not just the quality of life of older people but also their lifespan....
With this string of impactful contributions, our scientists received top local and international honours, including from the National Medical Research Council and at the National Medical Excellence and President’s Science & Technology Awards. They were also recognised with prestigious awards from the Japanese Cancer Society, and American Academy of Microbiology, and our entire campus put in a strong performance in renowned rankings, including Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers and Stanford’s World’s Top 2% Scientists List.
To these awards, we added our own recognition in the form of the Duke-NUS Hall of Master Academic Clinicians, the highest honour bestowed by the School on outstanding clinical faculty from across our campus, and inducted our first cohort of eight senior clinicians. Their excellence continue to help us attract the brightest and most talented scientists and clinicians, and build partnerships with other world-class institutions and individuals.
We continued to expand our licensing agreements and commercial partnerships to bring our campus’ discoveries from the bench to the bedside, including agreements with Cordlife Group to advance stem cell technology to a first-in-man clinical trial in Singapore; Ximbio to bring our research tools to a global audience; and Xylonix to optimise liposome drug formulations and develop companion diagnostics for the company’s novel cancer immunity drug.
To ensure that our AMC’s diverse experts can turn their ideas into tangible solutions that improve care, we came together to set up the Academic Medicine Innovation Institute which will support our innovators throughout this journey. Together with SingHealth, we launched the Graduate Certificate Programme in Health Services Innovation, underscoring the important role clinician-innovators play in improving patients’ lives by enhancing the delivery of care.
We further complemented this by adding new focal points to our ecosystem that bring together experts from across the campus in the key areas of regenerative medicine and stem cell technology through the launch of the Regenerative Medicine Institute of Singapore and the SingHealth Duke-NUS Cell Therapy Centre.
Pursuing the vision of establishing Duke-NUS as our AMC’s engine for world-class research and excellence in medical education enabled our faculty to make a palpable impact on the biomedical, health systems, and innovation landscape in Singapore and beyond.
I would like to thank the members of the Duke-NUS Governing Board, senior leadership, faculty, staff, alumni and students for their steadfast resolve and commitment to our AMC’s shared purpose of improving the lives of all within our spheres of influence.
We are writing the future of medicine by nurturing our students, alumni and faculty to make greater things happen for patients.