Pacific Medical Overtures

August 1, 2005

 

Officials from Duke Medical Center and the National University of Singapore entered into a partnership in April to establish a new medical school in Singapore. The Singapore government will provide $310 million over seven years to establish the new school, as part of a national strategy to become a leading center for medical research and education. The school's curriculum will be patterned after Duke's.

"Singapore's education system is one of the best in the world," says Victor J. Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and president and chief executive officer of the Duke University Health System, "and the government has embarked on an aggressive strategy to become Asia's powerhouse in the biomedical sciences. I have no doubt they will succeed.

"Joining together as partners represents a valuable strategic opportunity for Duke to have a global presence in science, and to apply the very best science to the challenges of global health."

Last year, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported that the Singapore government plans to spend more than $3 billion over five years to accelerate development in the biomedical sciences. The government is offering incentives to lure companies and is funding research institutes devoted to genomics, bioinformatics, bioengineering, nanotechnology, cancer therapies, and molecular and cell biology. It is also funding the construction of Biopolis, a $300-million city-within-a-city that will house academic research institutes, life-science companies, and pharmaceutical research labs.

According to the Singaporean Ministry of Education, the government approached Duke about this initiative because of the medical center's reputation, distinctive educational program, research activities, and faculty resources. Duke's involvement will raise the profile of the new medical school and enhance the standing of Singapore as a regional center for medical education and research, ministry officials say.

Scientists from Duke will be encouraged to conduct research at the National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, says Dzau, as well as to collaborate with academic and private research groups at Biopolis. "The opportunity to form collaborations in this environment will help us accelerate our efforts in the area of translational research, which is a strategic priority for Duke. The work of translating new discoveries into useful therapies is as important as the discoveries themselves. In order for us to reap the benefits of medical science for our society, we need to be adept at both discovery and translation. Collaboration and teamwork are essential to the process of translation."

R. Sanders Williams M.D. '74, dean of Duke's medical school, will be interim dean of the National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School. He will lead a committee that will develop a plan for establishing the school, focusing on tasks such as facilities planning, faculty recruitment, and admissions. Williams says the school will likely admit its first class in 2007, in interim facilities.