Round-up of Duke-NUS’ latest people news

In this round-up, we celebrate the high note on which Duke-NUS ended in 2021, with President’s Awards for Professors Ivy Ng and Wang Linfa, a National Medical Excellence Team Award for Dr Chia Wan Ni and the wider COVID-19 Research Work Group a well as 67 National Medical Research Council talent development awards. In addition, the faculty at Duke-NUS and across the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre were recognised for their research excellence in international rankings, while Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman flew the flag high for biomedical innovation at the Deep Tech Summit back in November.

The new year started just as strong as the previous year ended, with the School and the wider Academic Medical Centre seeing leadership renewal in action. And while the long tail of COVID-19 continues to throw up surprises, The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao both released books documenting Singapore’s early response, including Duke-NUS’ contributions. But it is not just the faculty who contribute to Singapore’s COVID-19 legacy, a special edition COVID-19 comic was written and published by two Duke-NUS student interns.

Professor Ivy Ng and Professor Wang Linfa honoured with President’s Science and Technology Awards

Singapore President Madam Halimah Yacob presented SingHealth Group CEO and Duke-NUS Governing Board member, Professor Ivy Ng, and Professor Wang Linfa from the Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme with the President’s Science and Technology Medal and the President’s Science Award, respectively, on 10 December 2021. It is the highest honour bestowed on exceptional individuals and teams to recognise their excellent achievements in science and technology and their invaluable contributions to the research and development landscape in Singapore.

“I am very honoured and humbled to receive this award and I see it as a collective recognition of the outstanding contributions made by individuals and teams I have worked with across the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, who have made my journey in medicine and science truly meaningful. This award belongs to them and I hope it spurs us on to develop better healthcare solutions for our patients.”

Prof Ivy Ng

Professor Ivy Ng, who received the prestigious President’s Science and Technology Medal for her outstanding leadership in the advancement of academic medicine in Singapore through developing health and biomedical sciences research and innovation, nurturing clinical research talent and establishing strategic partnerships among academia, healthcare and industry to improve healthcare infrastructure.

Photo credit: SingHealth

“I am very honoured to receive this prestigious award, which is the highest honour given to a scientist in Singapore. I hope that the award will enable me to play an even more important role in contributing to science in Singapore and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

Prof Wang Linfa

Professor Wang Linfa, who is also the executive director of the National Programme for Research in Epidemic Preparedness and Responses (PREPARE), received the President’s Science Award in recognition of his stellar contributions to the field of bat biology and emerging viral diseases and the successful translation of his discoveries into biomedical innovations and pandemic responses that have helped combat several viral outbreaks, including COVID-19.

Photo credit: A*STAR

COVID-19 Research Workgroup comprising Duke-NUS researcher receives National Medical Excellence Award

“I am very honoured to receive this prestigious award, which is the highest honour given to a scientist in Singapore. I hope that the award will enable me to play an even more important role in contributing to science in Singapore and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

Dr Chia Wan Ni

Dr Chia Wan Ni, now a senior research fellow in Professor Wang Linfa’s lab, represented Duke-NUS in the COVID-19 Research Work Group team that received a 2021 National Clinical Excellence Team Award, which recognises outstanding clinicians and healthcare professionals who have made outstanding contributions in the advancement of healthcare improvements in standards of patient safety and quality of care, which ultimately improve lives. The team also included clinicians and scientists from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and A*STAR.

Researchers from SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre win national research awards

Sixty-seven researchers from the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre were recognised with National Medical Research Council awards last year. Seven clinician scientists and researchers won Clinician Scientist Awards, which recognise talented clinician-scientists and researchers who pursue internationally-competitive and cutting edge translational and clinical research.

In addition, twelve budding clinician-scientists received the Transition and Clinician Innovator Development Awards as well as National Medical Research Council Research Training Fellowships. Collectively, these awards and programmes enable individuals to push the boundaries of medicine and improve patient care in Singapore and beyond.

Duke-NUS scientists make strong showing among world’s highly cited researchers

Five Duke-NUS scientists made it into the Highly Cited Researchers rankings published by data analytics firm Clarivate in 2021. This annual list recognises researchers who have published multiple highly cited papers in the last decade and demonstrated scientific excellence in one or more of 21 fields.

The Duke-NUS scientists who made the list include Professors Antonio Bertoletti and Wang Linfa from the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme and Professor Derek Hausenloy from the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme, who were recognised for their cross-field research. Professors Carolyn Lam and Wong Tien Yin were recognised for their contributions in the field of clinical medicine.

In addition to this recognition, more than 80 researchers from the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre demonstrated their impact when they made the World’s Top Two Per Cent Scientists List created by Stanford University. The list, launched in October 2021, identified more than 186,000 top scholars in their areas of specialty whose publications are most frequently cited by other authors around the globe.

Clarivate and Top Global Scientist Ranking

Dean Professor Thomas Coffman speaks about innovation at the Deep Tech Summit

“The pandemic has spurred many innovations, including cPass™, which started as a clever idea sketched down on the back of a napkin in March. Eight months later, it was approved by the FDA [US Food and Drug Administration), really compressing the typical timeline to a very short interval driven by the crucible of the pandemic. And there has been quite a bit of thoughtful evaluation of the ways in which regulatory processes could be sped up without compromising safety. My hope is that those sorts of changes and innovations will persist beyond COVID-19.”

Duke-NUS Dean Professor Thomas Coffman spoke about creating an enabling culture for health science innovation at the Deep Tech Summit, which brought together a global community of Deep Tech start-ups, investors, corporate innovators, researchers, government partners and international organisations with interest in the areas of agrifood, health and biomedical sciences, advanced manufacturing and sustainability.

Dean Thomas Coffman at the Deep Tech Summit

Duke-NUS and SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre appointments
Prof Chow Wan Cheng
Wong Tien Yin

In January 2022, Clinical Associate Professor Chow Wan Cheng assumed the role of Vice-Dean for the Office of Academic and Clinical Development. She took over from Professor Wong Tien Yin, who stepped down to become the Founding Head of Tsinghua Medicine, a new academy of healthcare and medical sciences at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Building on Wong’s strong foundations, Chow will further deepen strategic and meaningful interactions with the Academic Clinical Programmes, Joint Institutes and Centres. She will also provide strategic leadership and guidance to advance the academic agenda of the School, elevating the academic medicine mission to a new high and creating organisational frameworks to spearhead and manage the continued development of academic medicine.

Duke-NUS also welcomed the appointment of two programme directors. Professor Gavin Smith, who served as Interim Director, has been appointed to lead the School’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Signature Research Programme. Smith has been extraordinarily successful in attracting funding for his research—both from agencies in Singapore as well as from overseas—that was published in leading journals. He remains active internationally, engaging scientists in the region and serving on advisory boards for the World Health Organization and Food and Agricultural Organization to assist in developing research and technical capacity for disease detection, prevention, and control in public health and animal health laboratories throughout Asia.

At the same time, the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Signature Research Programme welcomed Professor Wang Yibin as its new director. Wang made the move after successfully leading a laboratory as a Professor in the Division of Molecular Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles for almost 20 years. During his career, he has garnered several awards and accolades, including the Thomas Smith Lecturer Award in 2016 and, most recently, the Excellence in Educational Innovation Award from UCLA College of Life Sciences. He is the co-founder of Ramino Biotherapeutics Inc.—a start-up that aims to develop novel therapies for genetic and cardiometabolic disorders—and has published extensively in high-impact journals.

Aung Tin
David Ng Chee Chin

With effect from 1 January 2022, Professor Aung Tin stepped up to lead the EYE Academic Clinical Programme and Clinical Assistant Professor David Ng Chee Chin took over to helm as Chair of the Family Medicine Academic Clinical Programme. In their new roles, they will provide strategic direction to propel the programmes’ academic medicine agenda to greater heights.

Duke-NUS experts featured in two books documenting Singapore’s fight against COVID-19

Duke-NUS experts and their contributions to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic are featured in books published by the Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao. Among others, the contributions of Professor Wang Linfa, Professor Ooi Eng Eong and Dr Martin Linster from the Duke-NUS’ Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme were highlighted in these two accounts, which pay tribute to the frontliners, including healthcare workers, public servants and those in essential services.

Duke-NUS student interns write and illustrate special edition COVID-19 comic book

Mr Richard Jo and Ms Huang Huanyan may currently be student interns at Duke-NUS. But they also have another passion: conveying the intricacies of science through art and stories. Merging their passion for science and art, the two founded Deko, an online educational platform that conveys science through art to help educate, engage and empower youths.

Ms Huang Huanyan

“I’ve always viewed the world through images and colours,” said Huang. “Art is crucial as a form of communication and, most importantly, it bridges communities and knowledge. Transitioning from a social science and humanities background to life sciences made me realise the gap between the scientific community and the general public, where certain terminologies and even sentence structures often feel like a foreign language to those without a strong science background.”

For their most recent project, the pair have written, drawn and published a COVID-19 book.

The comic workbook delivers COVID-19 information and encourages youths to draw out their creative ideas and reflections. It is the first ever visual workbook that allows youths aged seven to 14 to illustrate their own stories of COVID-19.

Mr Richard Jo

“The workbooks were first created for and donated to youths (under 17) from underprivileged and special needs backgrounds, supported by the National Youth Council Youth ChangeMakers and Yale-NUS SiTC grant,” said Jo. “We are proud to say that our art narratives have successfully broken down complex topics from virus mechanisms to vaccine development and significantly increased youths’ interest in these topics.”

The book was reviewed by author of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, award-winning comic artist Sonny Liew, as well as professors from Duke-NUS and the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

Duke-NUS student interns write and illustrate special edition COVID-19 comic book
Richard Jo and Huang Huanyan developed this COVID-19 workbook to educate youths about the pandemic // Credit: Deko
Thumbnail credit: A*STAR
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