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Dean's Message


Dean Thomas Coffman

COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges to the way we live, research, and educate. As a research-intensive medical school, Duke-NUS is facing these challenges with fierce dedication. Our faculty, staff and students are each in their own way doing their part to fight this outbreak. Our clinical faculty in the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other selfless healthcare workers on the front lines caring for patients. At the same time, our scientists have been on the research frontlines since this outbreak began – as one of the first groups in the world to culture the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus from patient samples and in developing antibody-based serological tests for epidemiological tracing. We have created this special web page to highlight their latest findings and contributions.

Duke-NUS was in an ideal position to assist in the national response to COVID-19 as a direct result of vision and foresight of the Singapore government and our early school leaders who established the Emerging and Infectious Diseases Programme (EID), as a part of Duke-NUS after it was founded in 2005, not long after the SARS outbreak. Since its inception, the EID programme has integrated the surveillance of new and emerging pathogens with the development of novel treatments, prevention, and control strategies to protect public health. The establishment of our ABSL3 facility in 2013 provided a safe environment for isolating and studying dangerous pathogens like SARS-CoV-2, a requisite step for developing vaccines and cures.

These are trying times, but Duke-NUS will continue to work tirelessly toward developing solutions for COVID-19, exploiting our cutting-edge research capabilities across partnerships with our colleagues at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre and collaborators in Singapore and around the world. We have collated here the wide range of ongoing efforts at Duke-NUS to address the COVID-19 pandemic, along with links to other useful information. I invite you to have a look. And please contact us if you would be interested in making a donation to support our impactful COVID-19 work.

Professor Thomas M. Coffman

Duke-NUS COVID-19 Update

At Duke-NUS Medical School, we have been working hard as a team in the fight against COVID-19.

Duke-NUS scientists have been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak since it broke out. The Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme team at Duke-NUS Medical School was among the first in the world to isolate the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19, after China and Australia. The team led by Prof Wang Linfa, Director of the EID Programme, and Asst Prof Danielle Anderson, Scientific Director of the Duke-NUS ABSL3 laboratory, successfully cultured the virus from patient samples early in the outbreak investigation and developed serological tests to identify an important missing link between two major COVID-19 clusters in Singapore. Their research was featured in news headlines around the world, and included public commendations by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Kiat.

Sample of the COVID-19 virus
A sample of the COVID-19 virus that was cultured in the Duke-NUS containment laboratory.

Duke-NUS researchers’ exploratory collaborations with other organisations towards the development, testing and trialling of vaccines have resulted in a new partnership with Arcturus Therapeutics, a US-based biotech firm, to develop a COVID-19 vaccine for Singapore. This partnership aims to bring a vaccine candidate to clinical testing, using Arcturus’ STARR technology and a unique platform developed at Duke-NUS that enables rapid screening of vaccines for safety and effectiveness. Duke-NUS, in collaboration with the SingHealth team, has extensive clinical trials capacity, and Singapore, with its multi-ethnic population, is an ideal site for such trials.

The Duke-NUS administration has embraced all measures put in place by the Singapore government to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff with minimal disruptions to the School’s operations.

Danielle Anderson and Mr Adrian Kang
Asst Prof Danielle Anderson and Mr Adrian Kang, Research Assistant at Duke-NUS, working in the containment facility.

COVID-19 Media Coverage

Emerging Infectious Diseases

One of the key goals of the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme is to set up a world-class regional infectious disease center for reference and research in the Asia-Pacific region.

The mission of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS is to pioneer the development and discovery of new and more effective methods for the detection, treatment, prevention and control of new and emerging pathogens. The key outcome of the research will be the early identification of new pathogens, out of which new diagnostic tests, treatments and control strategies will also be developed. This is aided by harnessing the talents at Duke-NUS and those at partner organisations like NUS, NTU, SingHealth, the National Centre for Infectious Disease, the A*STAR institutes and the DSO National Laboratories.

SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute

The SingHealth Duke-NUS Global Health Institute (SDGHI) is a joint institute of SingHealth and Duke-NUS, which aims to address current and emerging health challenges across ASEAN member states and in other Asian countries. Working in collaboration with partners, the Institute seeks to tackle prevalent health challenges, strengthen health systems and better insulate countries from pandemics and disease threats.