Officials of Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Singapore government have signed a historic preliminary agreement that, when finalized, would result in Hopkins-led collaborative research, medical education and clinical trials in Southeast Asia. The enterprise, to be known as Johns Hopkins Singapore, would allow Hopkins a presence in Asia and enable Singapore to grow its biomedical industry and reputation as an education and healthcare hub.
The agreement was signed on Jan. 20 in Singapore.
Under terms of a memorandum of understanding, a new corporation, Johns Hopkins Singapore, Pte. Ltd., also would be created to develop clinical treatment facilities for the care of patients with cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other illnesses for patients in Singapore and throughout Southeast Asia. Hopkins faculty physicians, scientists and administrators would oversee all operations for JHS.
Unlike most arrangements between U.S.-based medical centers and foreign facilities, JHS would follow a "center of excellence" model that places emphasis on research and medical education, as well as direct patient care, according to Edward D. Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the School of Medicine.
"What makes Hopkins number one is the way it links research and teaching to its dedication to patients, and that is what will make JHS strong, too," Miller said. "JHS will seek to raise the bar for clinical services in Southeast Asia by enhancing long-term investment in research and training in Singapore," he added.
President William R. Brody, who spoke at the signing [see remarks below], said, "When Singapore officials approached us to help them develop a top-notch medical care center in Asia, we created a win-win situation for patients, students, clinicians and scientists on both ends. We are an international institution, and in Singapore's technically advanced and state-of-the-art medical facilities, Hopkins specialists will have vast new resources for exporting their special talent for moving new discoveries from bench to bedside rapidly, and teaching them as well to medical students and practitioners."
This is the first time Singapore is working with an internationally renowned institution.
According to Philip Yeo, chairman of the Economic Development Board of Singapore, "Johns Hopkins brings to Singapore a strong, vibrant research and education culture. This collaboration will help to raise our standard of medical practice, research and education to a world-class level."
A cornerstone of JHS will be fast-tracking clinical trials of new drugs and other treatments for diseases prevalent in Southeast Asia, such as cancers of the nasopharynx and liver, and rheumatic heart disease.
"We can learn so much by having access to large numbers of patients who need care," Miller explained. "What we find out can then be used in the fewer, but equally sick, patients with these conditions in the United States."
A related effort is the study of the genetic foundation of diseases among Asians so that therapies can be tailored to the special needs of Asian populations worldwide. "Patients in Singapore will get access to cutting-edge medical care, and American patients will benefit from faster results of studies," Miller said. Efforts will focus on applied research "with the goal of developing commercially viable products and business opportunities," according to the memorandum of understanding. An independent board will be responsible for management of the research activities, guided by a scientific advisory board of eminent scientists from the United States, Singapore and other nations.
JHS also will provide fellowship training in research and clinical subspecialities in Singapore and at the Hopkins campus in Baltimore.
Plans also call for establishing partnerships with regional universities, multinational corporations, insurance companies and referring physician networks in Asia, as well as forming satellite centers in the region.
The partnership between Hopkins and Singapore, which includes National University of Singapore, the National University Hospital, Singapore's Economic Development Board and the National Science and Technology Board, represents a good philosophical--as well as a good business--fit, according to Brody.
"Both The National University of Singapore and National University Hospital share the Hopkins commitment to the common goals of education, training and research," Brody said. "This cultural compatibility is extremely important given the nature and goals of this long-term alliance."
Hopkins will be an owner of JHS and will retain managerial control of the organization and its medical functions, including quality control.
Steven J. Thompson, Hopkins Medicine's vice dean for administration, has been appointed interim CEO for JHS. He will oversee establishment of an administrative infrastructure for JHS. Eventually, plans call for the clinical component and research division of JHS to have their own CEOs and administrative structures, all reporting to the CEO of JHS.
Two boards of directors will be established. One will govern operations of the Johns Hopkins research component of JHS, including the medical faculty, and the other will direct the clinical division. For the clinical component, an interim board will be set up to help guide patient care operations and integration with the research and education elements. Ultimately, a permanent board will be formed.
Because the research component of JHS will be fully Hopkins owned, a permanent board of directors for that division currently is being established. Composition of both boards of directors has yet to be determined.
According to the memorandum of understanding, implementation of JHS will be done in phases. Phases I and II will focus on development of JHS infrastructure and faculty, including a 40,000-square-foot research facility.
An important aspect of JHS is the creation of relationships with other premiere public medical centers in Singapore, including the Singapore General Hospital, the Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the Neuroscience Institute. In addition, a physician network for patient referrals will be established to support JHS clinical operations.
More information about the Singapore initiative can be found on the Internet at hopkins.med.jhu.edu/.