Singapore's medical advancements are propelled by the Singapore Government's strong commitment to basic and clinical research and development. The establishment of Biopolis, the S$500 million state-of-the-art infrastructure for the life sciences, has enabled Singapore to develop swiftly into a global biomedical sciences hub advancing human healthcare.
New therapies and technologies are constantly made available by clinical research engaged by our hospitals and national speciality centres, in collaboration with some of the world's top medical institutes, pharmaceutical and medical technology firms. Singapore's healthcare providers and professionals keep abreast with the world's medical-technological breakthroughs, and actively acquire new knowledge, equipment and techniques with the aim of improving clinical outcomes and patient care.
In addition, important leads to new therapies that benefit patients are being discovered through world-class scientific research fostered by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and its biomedical research institutes. In this vibrant research culture, the Blue Sky approach to research encourages radical approaches to accomplish biomedical breakthroughs. Translational research bridges the gap between bench and bedside, speeding up the process of taking key research results to the bedside.
With the availability of robust support, infrastructure, dynamic research culture and pro-business approach, many world-renowned experts are attracted to work in Singapore and have in turn, contributed invaluable expertise to Singapore's research efforts.
Key biomedical experts in Singapore include:
- Professor Neal Copeland, a top cancer geneticist, heads the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology as Executive Director. Prof. Copeland is highly regarded for his pioneering work in discovering a way to accelerate the identification of cancer-causing genes in mice.
- Professor Philippe Kourilsky, a noted expert in molecular immunology and tumour immunity, is the Chairman of the Singapore Immunology Network and also holds the Chair of Molecular Immunology at the College de France. He was formerly Director-General of the Institut Pasteur.
- Professor Edward W. Holmes and Professor Judith L. Swain, leading US physician-scientists, are helping to drive Singapore's translational medical research efforts. Professor Edward Holmes is the Deputy Chairman of the Translational and Clinical Sciences Group (Biomedical Research Council) and Executive Chairman, National Medical Research Council. Professor Judith Swain is the founding Executive Director of the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences.
- Professor Edward Liu, previously Director of the Division of Clinical Sciences, National Cancer Institute (USA), is the first Executive Director of the Genome Institute of Singapore.
- Dr Alan Colman, a renowned stem cell expert, is the Executive Director of the Singapore Stem Cell Consortium and Principal Investigator at the Institute of Medical Biology.
Luminaries on board at A*STAR include:
- Dr Sydney Brenner, Nobel Laureate, Scientific Advisor to A*STAR Chairman, and Distinguished Professor of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
- Lord Ronald Oxburgh, Deputy Chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council and Chairman, House of Lords Select Committee on Science & Technology.
- Professor Dennis A. Robertson, Vice Provost and Executive Director, Institute of Business and Interprofessional Studies, Illinois Institute of Technology.
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Our Biomedical Research Institutes
In the past 20 years, Singapore has steadily built a strong foundation of basic and clinical research through its biomedical research institutes which have gained the regard of the global scientific community.
The Bioinformatics Institute (BII) was established to train manpower and build capabilities in bioinformatics. BII's research centres around knowledge discovery - from biological data, exploiting high-end computing in biomedicine, advancing molecular imaging of biological processes, modelling of drug design and delivery, to computational proteomics and systems biology.
Bioprocessing Technology Institute
The Bioprocessing Technology Institute's (BTI) mission is to develop manpower capabilities and establish cutting-edge technologies relevant to the bioprocess community. Spearheading bioprocess R&D, the BTI has core expertise in expression engineering, animal cell technology, stem cells, microbial fermentation, product characterisation, downstream processing, purification and stability, with supporting proteomics and microarray platform technologies. BTI, with its R&D and its cGMP manufacturing capabilities, bridges the gaps between discovery, process development and commercialisation.
Genome Institute of Singapore
Established in June 2000 as the Singapore Genomics Program, the renamed Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) is a national flagship initiative with a global vision that seeks to use genomic sciences to improve public health and prosperity.
As a centre for genomic discovery, GIS pursues the integration of technology, genetics, and biology towards the goal of individualised medicine. Its scientific focus is to investigate post-sequence genomics; to understand the genetic architecture of pan-Asian populations with emphasis on cancer biology, pharmacogenomics, stem cell biology and infectious diseases.
Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology
The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) spearheads the advancement of biomedical sciences in Singapore. Positioned at the interface of two frontiers of engineering, IBN is focused on creating knowledge and cultivating talent to develop technology platforms that will spur the growth of new industries.
IBN's research efforts focus on the areas of nanobiotechnology, delivery of drugs, proteins and genes, tissue engineering, artificial organs and implants, medical devices, and biological and biomedical imaging. IBN targets to create a critical knowledge base in bioengineering and nanotechnology; to make a significant impact through the generation of new materials, devices, instruments, systems and processes; and create technology platforms that will lead to the development of novel products and the growth of new industries through technology licensing, transfer and spin-off.
Institute of Medical Biology
The Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) has a strategic, programme-directed portfolio of research focused on issues at the critical interface between basic science and medicine. It aims to facilitate the development of translational research by building bridges between clinical and basic science.
IMB currently hosts research programmes concerned with different aspects of human disease. Programmes include the Singapore Onco-Genome project, Regenerative Medicine, Papillomavirology, Epithelial Biology and the Lab of Stem Cell Biology from the Singapore Stem Cell Consortium (SSCC). IMB helps scientists and clinicians work closely together to support, inform and refine each other's strengths and specialisations to increase the efficiency of the translation process, and ultimately contribute towards a better quality of life.
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) was established to help develop and support biomedical R&D capabilities in Singapore. Today, IMCB has established itself as a world-class research institute in biomedical sciences with research activities focusing on six major fields: Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Structural Biology, Infectious Diseases, Cancer Biology and Translational Research with core strengths in cell cycling, cell signalling, cell death, cell motility and protein trafficking.
IMCB's recent achievements include being part of an international consortium that successfully sequenced the entire pufferfish (Fugu) genome - a world's first. IMCB was also awarded the Nikkei Prize 2000 for Technological Innovation, in recognition of its growth into a leading international research centre and its collaboration with industry and research institutes world-wide.
Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences
The Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) mission is the development of disease-oriented clinical and translational research programs in focused disease areas. SICS is distinguished by its focus on clinical sciences and the use of innovative approaches and technologies that enable the efficient and effective study of human health and diseases. The institute aims to attract, train and nurture clinician-scientists and serve as a critical bridge linking basic research undertaken by A*STAR Research Institutes and clinical research programmes in Singapore's public hospitals, disease centres and universities.
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Singapore is reputed for its clinical research and clinical trials management activities in Asia. As the secretariat for the APEC Coordinating Centre for Good Clinical Practice (GCP), Singapore plays a strategic role in developing GCP in Asia, steering initiatives such as the training of clinical research personnel and cultivating a conducive environment for multi-site clinical trials in the region.
These factors have attracted many global pharmaceutical brands to set up their regional clinical trial centres in Singapore. These include AstraZeneca, Aventis, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi-Synthelabo and Schering-Plough. Clinical trial activities conducted in Singapore include:
- Eli-Lilly's Lilly-NUS Clinical Pharmacology Centre that carries out at least 15 drug trials per year in clinical pharmacology as well as ethno-pharmacology.
- Novo Nordisk manages and coordinates clinical trials of new diabetes care products in the region from Singapore.
Making advancements in cancer research in Singapore is the Cancer Therapeutics Research Group (CTRG), which develops novel therapy for cancer through clinical trials. The CTRG is a multi-institutional research collaboration involving the National University Hospital/National University of Singapore, Sydney Cancer Centre/University of Sydney, Johns Hopkins Singapore - International Medical Centre, Chinese University of Hong Kong and National Cancer Centre, Singapore.
Several Contract Research Organisations (CROs) have also established operations in Singapore to support the pharmaceutical firms' growing outsourcing needs. These include global CROs Covance, Quintiles and ICON.