In the 1990s, Professor Woo Keng Thye, Emeritus Consultant in the Department of Renal Medicine at SGH and a Clinical Professor in Medicine at NUS, helped launch Singapore’s Good Clinical Practice Guidelines. From 2003-2006, Prof Woo served as Chairman of the National Medical Research Council. He is also known for his work as a kidney disease researcher.

The specialty of nephrology – the study of the kidney and its ailments – can be traced back to the 1970s in Singapore, when most research was trying to work out the underlying causes of different types of kidney disease.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, nephrologists in Singapore began to become interested in a condition called IgA Nephritis, the most common form of kidney disease locally. Patients with IgA Nephritis were found to be at high risk of thrombogenicity (formation of clots) in the kidneys leading to kidney failure. We conducted clinical trials to test the hypothesis of whether antithrombotic drugs could delay the onset of kidney failure. The clinical trial findings were positive. Upon publishing our results, many countries adopted the use of these drugs in their treatment guidelines for IgA Nephritis, hence benefitting and saving many patients.
Later in the 1990s, we tested a new class of medicines called Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs), which had become available in several countries for lowering blood pressure. These were also found to be effective in preventing kidney failure in patients with IgA Nephritis. As a result of our work, Singapore’s clinicians were among the first in the world to use ARBs in patients for such a purpose.

Old SGH Attic dialysis centre established in 1968. (Credit: SGH)

Over the decades, clinical research has helped boost the hopes of millions suffering from kidney diseases around the world. In addition to drug development, researchers are trying to improve existing lifesaving technologies such as haemodialysis and invent completely new devices for kidney patients that simulate artificial kidneys. Advances in transplantation care have led to better renal transplant survival rates and, since the turn of the century, genomics research has provided new genetic insights in almost all forms of kidney diseases.
Going forward, there are several exciting advancements and directions being explored in nephrology, and we should be proud that Singapore’s clinical researchers are at the forefront of many of these investigations and discoveries.

Did you know?

A portable kidney dialysis machine will soon undergo clinical trials for the first time in Singapore. Using this wearable artificial kidney, patients can be more mobile and provided with a convenient option.

From left to right: Haemodialysis machine with built-in monitor in the 1980s. Modern-day dialysis machine. (Credit: SGH)

Source: Reproduced with permission from SCRI. To read more, please visit