• President Tony Tan launches National Heart Research Institute Singapore, a dedicated cardiovascular research institute to advance treatment for heart diseases – the leading cause of death in the world, at the opening ceremony of SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress
  • Tanoto Foundation makes a gift of S$3 million to advance research in cardiovascular medicine

Singapore, 5 September 2014 – The SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress 2014 – a signature event showcasing the synergy and strength of SingHealth and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School’s (Duke-NUS) joint academic partnership, was launched today by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Themed “Academic Medicine – Transforming Vision into Reality”, the biennial Congress is a platform to showcase the latest medical developments and scientific advances in clinical care, research and medical education. The two-day programme features distinguished speakers from Singapore and abroad presenting a diverse range of topical healthcare, medical education and research issues.

A Double Boost for Cardiovascular Medicine

A key highlight at the Congress was the launch of the National Heart Research Institute Singapore (NHRIS) – a joint venture by National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) and Duke-NUS. Located at the new NHCS building, the 4,000 square metre research facility will lead in cardiovascular research in Singapore and the Asian region.

Helmed by world-renowned cardiovascular research expert Professor Stuart Cook, NHRIS’ key research focus areas are heart function and genetics, regenerative medicine and metabolic heart disease and cardiac imaging. Prof Cook said: “The vision for NHRIS is to be a premier regional centre for cardiovascular research to drive excellence in patient care. Our research in the Asian population will help us better understand the disease manifestation – this will change the way we treat cardiovascular disease and create a positive impact on outcomes for our patients.”

In conjunction with the launch, cardiovascular research efforts were given a further boost with Tanoto Foundation’s gift of S$3 million, of which S$2.5 million will be used to set up the Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Cardiovascular Medicine and S$500,000 will fund cardiovascular research programmes at NHRIS. Founder and Chairman of Tanoto Foundation Board of Trustees, Mr Sukanto Tanoto, presented the S$3 million gift cheque to President Tony Tan at the Congress, who received it in his capacity as Patron for Duke-NUS Development Committee. The gift will support research in human genetics to identify new ways of diagnosing, stratifying and testing patients with cardiovascular diseases, thereby allowing early prevention for those who are genetically pre-disposed to the disease.

This gift comes on the back of two earlier donations by Tanoto Foundation to DukeNUS in 2009 and 2013, to set up professorships and further research in diabetes (S$5 million) and oncology (S$3 million) respectively. 

Chairman of Tanoto Foundation Board of Governance, Mr Bey Soo Khiang said: Tanoto Foundation has, over the years, been a strong supporter of medical research that has the potential to bring about transformative impact to society. We are particularly delighted to contribute to the advancement of research in cardiovascular medicine for the Asian community, as we believe the breakthrough results will enable healthcare practitioners to address the region’s medical needs more effectively, in relation to heart diseases. To this end, Tanoto Foundation hopes to continue to play a positive role in helping to improve the quality of people’s lives.”

Strengths of the Academic Medicine Partnership

“Academic medical centres have a unique role to play in bridging the gap between bench and bedside, thus translating science into clinical applications and practical solutions that improve treatment and care delivery. Often, it is physicians’ clinical observations that lead to research studies which address real patient needs. At the same time, physicians also help scientists and researchers validate research findings in the clinical setting. The SingHealth Duke-NUS partnership is on track to becoming one of the leading AMCs in the region in the coming years," said President Tony Tan.

Professor Ivy Ng, Group Chief Executive Officer, SingHealth said: “The establishment of the NHRIS is the latest example of how our strategic partnership with Duke-NUS puts us at the forefront of Medicine to set new healthcare standards and transform models of care. As we progress in our Academic Medicine journey as one SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, I am confident that this Congress and the many initiatives borne from our academic partnership will spark chain reactions leading to even more collaborations and promising breakthroughs that will improve care for our patients and empower us to rise above the healthcare challenges we face today.”

On the significance of the Tanoto Foundation gift, Professor Ranga Krishnan, Dean of Duke-NUS said: “We are deeply grateful to the Tanoto Foundation for establishing the Professorship in Cardiovascular Medicine and the Initiative in Genetics and Stem Cell Research. The gift will strengthen Duke-NUS’ and SingHealth’s joint push in improving clinical care and translational research for better patient outcomes. Today’s Congress is a concrete demonstration of our commitment towards the collaboration.”

Held for the third time, this year’s Congress was the largest to date – with more than 2,500 delegates, 700 scientific abstracts submissions, 100 leading overseas and local speakers and 40 scientific plenaries and symposiums.

Assoc Prof Tan Thiam Chye, Co-organising Chairperson, said: “To be able to provide the best possible care for patients, it is important that healthcare professionals take part in academic activities to keep themselves abreast of the latest medical developments and scientific advances in clinical care, research and medical education, as well as interact and cross-share ideas with like-minded colleagues. The SingHealth Duke-NUS Scientific Congress is the ideal platform that provides excellent learning and networking opportunities for healthcare professionals to continually develop themselves – truly exemplifying the rich academic culture of our Academic Medical Centre.”