Living with COVID-19 has surely put us on a constant edge—not necessarily a bad thing because we are taking monkeypox (and other zoonotics) more seriously, we are treading carefully about henipavirus and we remain vigilant against dengue as well as the slowly ebbing, but still very much prevalent, SARS-COV-2.
One other thing that has changed is how we approach solutions: we have exponentially accelerated our efforts to innovate—according to the Oxford dictionary “to innovate” is to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
And that’s why in this issue of MEDICUS, we focus on innovation, a key strategic focus for Duke-NUS. In the main feature, our award-winning science writer Dr Chua Li Min traces the journey of a cell signalling molecule as it becomes a first-in-class antibody drug for treating the effects of fibro-inflammatory diseases caused by extensive scarring in affected tissues. We learn from Sebastian Schäfer—and other innovators at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre—that passion really is important to drive innovation.
But a scientist’s passion must be combined with a systematic, precise process to have a patent in place before optimal commercial outcomes (and successful start-ups) actually make it from bench to bedside. Enter the Centre for Technology and Development (CTeD) to manage intellectual property by researchers at Duke-NUS. So, in our main feature, Dr David Wang breaks down the process.
Senior editor Nicole Lim experiences the Duke-NUS’ culture of innovation coming alive as she follows Dr Milly Choy and Menchie Manuel into the School’s insectary to witness how healthy mosquitoes help researchers shed light on how viruses—in particular flaviviruses like dengue, chikungunya and Zika—react to new vaccines and even treatments in the mosquito. We also shine the spotlight on the dengue endgame as Professors Ooi Eng Eong, Lok Shee Mei and others outline our game plan to combat the increasing threat of the disease.
We celebrate the launch of two new centres—the Centre for Outbreak Preparedness, which will further strengthen regional research capacity, co-operation and preparedness against future pandemics and public health threats, and J&J Satellite Centre for Global Health Discovery at Duke-NUS to accelerate discovery research against flavivirus-related diseases and improve lives.
Shifting our focus to the people who make Duke-NUS, we profile Roger Vaughan’s career spanning construction to medicine (as student) to research to biostatistics back to medicine (as professor). We retrace the steps that led some of our newest doctors to their calling. And in other stories, we celebrate Ranga Krishnan, our past dean, receiving the Honorary Citizen Award this year, along with Duane Gubler, founding director of the School’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Signature Research Programme.
On the MEDICUS front, too, we have some news about changes in the Editorial Committee that advises our content line-up—we look forward to inspiration from our new members: Professor Ian Curran, Duke-NUS’ Vice-Dean for Education; Karl Bates, Duke University’s Executive Director of Research Communications; and Dr David Wang, CTeD’s Director.
We thank Michael Schoenfeld (Duke University), Christopher Laing and Sandy Cook from Duke-NUS for their guidance and wish them all the best in their new endeavours.
Now, let me invite you to the latest issue of MEDICUS and the insightful stories we have curated for you. As always please let us know what you like (or not) about our magazine so we can truly make it a publication of choice for you.
MEDICUS, the School’s award-winning quarterly magazine, goes beyond the latest discoveries in education, research and academic medicine, shining a spotlight on the people whose ideas are shaping the future of science and medicine. In its coverage of Duke-NUS Medical School, a landmark collaboration between Duke University and the National University of Singapore, MEDICUS tells the stories of the scientists, educators, clinicians, students and alumni who work tirelessly to transform medicine and improve lives for people on the Little Red Dot and around the world.
About the masthead
This issue’s masthead shows a close-up of the aorta, the major artery in the body, from a pre-clinical model of Marfan syndrome—a genetic condition that leads to defects in the heart’s connective tissue associated with the development of aneurysms. When that happens, the blood vessel starts to bulge and can eventually tear or rupture, which is fatal. This image, captured by Tanoto Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine Stuart Cook’s team shows an increase in the levels of a cell signalling molecule, IL-11, in the aortic vascular smooth muscle cells. They discovered that when IL-11 signalling was inhibited, it prevented abnormalities in the aorta as well as aneurysms. Their findings suggest that blocking IL-11 could prevent aortic disorders in Marfan syndrome.
Photo credit: Dr Lim Wei-Wen from the Cook lab
Writers and contributors
Chua Li Min
Norfaezah Binte Abdullah