11 October 2019, Singapore – A new centre for genomic medicine was launched by Mr Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Health, at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) Scientific Meeting today. The SingHealth Duke-NUS Genomic Medicine Centre (SDGMC) will provide highly-specialised genetics care and facilitate genomics research and education across all SingHealth institutes, with the ultimate aim of advancing care for patients and families with genetic diseases.
Many human diseases, including cancer and heart disease, can be traced back to genetic abnormalities or mutations and could be caused by inherited genetic abnormalities. Most genetic disorders are diagnosed at birth or complex acquired genetic mutations may develop during the course of a lifetime. It is therefore critical to identify and address the unique genetic elements of each individual in order to diagnose diseases and tailor the treatment required. Family members will also be able to assess their risk of inheriting or acquiring the same diseases.
SDGMC’s specialty genetics clinics
The SDGMC will boost genomic expertise and standardise clinical pathways across medical specialties in SingHealth. It will set up specialty genetics clinics in SingHealth’s hospitals and institutions where patients with genetic disorders or suspected genetically-linked conditions, and their family members, can undergo risk assessment, genetic testing and genetic counselling by geneticists and genetic counsellors.
With the establishment of these specialty genetics clinics, patients and at-risk individuals no longer need to be referred to a separate site for genetics services and will be able to receive the appropriate genetics support at the institution where they are receiving care. This enhances patient experience and also improves communication between clinical and genetics teams to better provide more personalised care and support plans for the patients and their family members.
Professor Ivy Ng, Group CEO, SingHealth said, “The SingHealth Duke-NUS Genomic Medicine Centre will seamlessly integrate genomics care into our healthcare institutions, providing crucial genomics perspectives and timely intervention across medical specialities. This will allow for more accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment for patients with genetic diseases, and more effective risk assessment, monitoring and intervention for their family members who are at risk. ”
Genomics research and education
Besides enhancing patient care, the SDGMC will also focus on research and education to advance genomics care. A registry of genetic disorders will be established with clinical data that is valuable for epidemiological studies. The registry will help healthcare professionals and researchers understand disease trends, treatment plans and patient outcomes to better manage genetic disorders. Additionally, the Centre will work with the faculty at Duke-NUS Medical School to conduct research to discover new biomarkers and genetic disorders for improved diagnosis and novel treatment.
A genetics education programme will be introduced to equip medical professionals who do not specialise in genetics with basic knowledge of the use of genetics in clinical practice. This will help them better identify and make appropriate referrals for patients with genetic conditions.
Professor Thomas Coffman, Dean, Duke-NUS Medical School said, “Genomics is a rapidly growing field of medicine. It is important that clinicians are equipped with the knowledge and are able to study the causes and treatment for genetic diseases. The new centre will strengthen our genomics capabilities through education and research, and raise the overall standards of care for genetic diseases.”
Dr Saumya Shekhar Jamuar, Head, SingHealth Duke-NUS Genomic Medicine Centre, and Senior Consultant, Genetics Service, Department of Paediatrics, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, said, “Over the past decade, genomics has become an integral part of routine clinical care. From making novel discoveries to help families understand recurrence risk, to developing treatment targeting a specific genetic variant in an individual, we anticipate that, in the coming years, the SingHealth Duke-NUS Genomic Medicine Centre will play an important role in spearheading some of these clinical activities at the national level as Singapore continues to build up her capabilities in precision medicine.”
10th KKH Scientific Meeting
The SingHealth Duke-NUS Genomic Medicine Centre was launched at the 10th KKH Scientific Meeting. Aptly themed “Patient-Centric Care: Precision Medicine and Personalised Care”, the two-day conference is expected to draw about 300 healthcare practitioners from KKH, other SingHealth institutions, and the private healthcare sector.
The 10th KKH Scientific Meeting shines a spotlight on advances and breakthroughs in science and technology, in particular in the area of genomics, which have enabled the provision of precision medicine and personalised care to patients.
“As the largest hospital specialising in healthcare for women and children in Singapore, the plenary and symposium topics will span fetal health to child health and women’s health. In recognition of the role played by patients in today’s healthcare landscape, this is also the first time the hospital has invited KKH patients to share first-hand accounts of their experience at the Scientific Meeting,” said Dr Tan Ee Shien, Chairperson, Organising Committee, 10th KKH Scientific Meeting. Dr Tan is also the Head and Senior Consultant of Genetics Service, Department of Paediatrics at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.