At a briefing Nov. 3 in Singapore, the Singapore government and Johns Hopkins Medicine announced final agreements to develop Singapore's first private medical facility combining research and teaching with clinical services, modeled after Hopkins in Baltimore.
The specific entities formed by this agreement are Johns Hopkins Singapore Pte. Ltd. (JHS), to carry out collaborative research and medical education with Singapore institutions; and Johns Hopkins Singapore Clinical Services Pte. Ltd. (JHSCS), to provide health care services for complex medical conditions in the region.
According to Liew Heng San, managing director of Singapore's Economic Development Board, "JHS fits in perfectly with EDB's vision to develop Singapore into an intellectual hub, a plan announced in September by Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan. Johns Hopkins will help to raise standards in medical research and education through collaboration with our local institutions and also provide world-class medical services to our people, our clients from the region and beyond."
"Johns Hopkins Singapore is an important milestone for Johns Hopkins Medicine," said Edward D. Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine. "Both Hopkins and Singapore have much to gain, and so do our patients. In January, we laid the groundwork for a Hopkins presence in Singapore, and we are now building the structure for what will become a medical, research and education hub in this very important part of the world. What makes Hopkins No. 1 is the way it links research and teaching to its dedication to patients, and that is what will make JHS strong, too."
Miller cited several reasons for the agreement with Singapore. "The National University of Singapore and the National University Hospital share the Hopkins commitment to the common goals of education, training and research," he said. "On a more practical level, Singapore has a very impressive and extensive infrastructure already in place. Transportation systems are very adequate. Singapore's per capita income is second only to Japan's for this region, and its citizens tend to be educated. Most importantly, Singapore has expressed a strong commitment to become a regional medical hub and is willing to provide the resources to accomplish this objective."
At the briefing, Steven J. Thompson, CEO of both JHS and JHSCS as well as Johns Hopkins Medicine's vice dean for administration, revealed details of initial JHS projects.
The research and development center, expected to start activities in April 1999 under the direction of Paul S. Lietman, Wellcome Professor of Pharmacology at Hopkins, will focus on diseases prevalent in the Singapore region, such as cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, liver and stomach. Research projects already selected are to develop a new approach to treating nasopharyngeal cancer that selectively targets and destroys the viral proteins within tumors; develop a test for tumor-specific or associated antigens to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers common among Asians; design an artificial liver and develop new drug and gene delivery systems for treating liver disorders; create a telerobotic operating system to teach laparascopic procedures and to treat patients with urological disorders; also in urology, create a "virtual reality workbench" with which surgeons can simulate an operation prior to surgery; and design a DataWeaver system to integrate patient information, treatment and clinical progress.
In addition to Hopkins scientists, JHS will draw upon the region's top research talents and is expected to attract back to Singapore researchers who are currently overseas. JHS expects to raise additional research and development grants from industry, with Singapore benefiting through co-owning intellectual property rights for discoveries made with its investment in the new center.
Educational initiatives, also planned to start in the second quarter of 1999 under Lietman's direction, include a joint Johns Hopkins-NUS Ph.D. program in basic sciences to train some of the region's promising scientists; a master's program in clinical research, currently not available in Singapore; continuing medical education courses for medical professionals in the region; and other collaborations, including postdoctoral training programs and medical student and faculty exchange programs.
JHS Clinical Services will begin operations in the first quarter of 1999 in two wards leased at the Kent Ridge Wing at NUH. Directed by Martin Abeloff, director of the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, clinical services initially will focus on oncology, eventually expanding into other clinical disciplines with the goal of building a dedicated hospital.
"The intent of JHS Clinical Services is not to compete with physicians [in Singapore] and in the region but to augment and complement the care they currently provide and to assist them in developing new areas of clinical expertise, as well as to give them the opportunity to participate in research programs specifically oriented toward the unique medical problems their patients face," Miller said. "Everyone will benefit from this partnership."
JHS Clinical Services equity partners include Singapore's Economic Development Board Investments, VISTA Healthcare, Arcasia Land and Johns Hopkins International LLC.