The Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 26, 1998

Jan. 26, 1998
VOL. 27, NO. 19


Hopkins, Singapore Ink Joint Venture

Collaboration: Hopkins Medicine, government of Singapore agree to plan for Hopkins-led research, education and clinical care

Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

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.

Singapore at a glance

Location: Consisting of one main island and some 60 small ones, Singapore is situated near the tip of the Malay Peninsula, about where the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean meet.

Size: The main island of Singapore is about 26 miles by 14 miles. Total land area is 238 square miles.

Resident population: 3,044,300 *

Population by race: Chinese, 77.3 percent; Malays, 14.1; Indians, 7.3; other ethnic groups, 1.3 *

Official languages: English (language of administration), Malay (national language), Mandarin, Tamil

Religions: Buddhism, 31.9 percent; Taoism, 21.9; Islam, 14.9; Christianity, 12.9; Hinduism, 3.3; other (Judaism, Zoroastrianism), 0.6; no religion, 14.5 *

*Figures as of mid-1996

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

"Excerpts from President Brody's remarks at the Johns Hopkins Singapore announcement"

To understand why the president of Johns Hopkins would travel halfway around the globe to initiate a new program in medical research, education and patient care it is perhaps necessary to understand something of the nature of the institution I represent.

Johns Hopkins is not the oldest university in America; several universities predate us by more than a century. Our hospital is not the largest; many medical centers are as big, or even larger. We are not the richest, though I admit I sometimes wish we were. We are not even the most famous, although the Johns Hopkins name is recognized around the world.

What is unique about Johns Hopkins is our commitment to research and education as fundamental and co-equal components of our mission. Research results in discovery, which in turn inspires teaching. We believe the activities are inseparable. They define everything we do, and all that we stand for.

When Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876, there was not another university operating in America that was committed to conducting research and offering advanced training at the master's and doctoral level based upon those research efforts. That model, which we adapted freely from the leading German universities of the day, quickly proved its worth, and a stream of scientific discoveries and advances began flowing from our campus in Baltimore.

Thirteen years later, when The Johns Hopkins Hospital opened its doors, that process was greatly accelerated. Discoveries large and small, ranging from the use of saccharine as an artificial sweetener to rubber gloves for surgery to the first concrete evidence of the existence of black holes in the universe, have defined the Johns Hopkins experience.

It is sometimes said that research is Hopkins' gift to humanity. Certainly, it defines who we are, and what we hope to accomplish.

In medicine in particular, the tradition of research, education and patient care is enshrined in Hopkins tradition. We like to talk about a "three-legged stool" that needs each of the legs to successfully stand: Each of the dimensions of patient care, education and research are valued in Johns Hopkins medicine, and each, we believe, contributes to the other.

Hopkins Medicine is balanced medicine. It cares for the patient, it educates the medical leaders of tomorrow, and all the while it pioneers new discoveries in drugs, clinical practice, medical devices, biomedical engineering and the whole gamut of modern medicine.

The United States government devotes hundreds of millions of dollars each year to financing medical research. That research work is done at academic medical centers and in laboratories across the nation.

Of all those efforts, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine receives the greatest amount of government funding for medical science project support. These are the kinds of efforts that involve teams of investigators from different disciplines coming together to research a problem from several different points of view. We are very successful in this area, and our expertise in creating interdisciplinary teams to address complex medical problems serves as a national model.

We believe this approach to care not only saves lives through new discoveries, it also provides the best possible model for caring for our patients.

Our commitment to research and discovery is what brings us to Singapore. In an age of jet travel and instantaneous worldwide communications, the frontiers of knowledge are truly international. We believe a partnership with Singapore's technically advanced institutions using this country's state-of-the-art facilities will open untold opportunities to advance the world's understanding of many illnesses.

This partnership of shared resources and shared expertise will benefit not just Johns Hopkins and not just the nation of Singapore, but equally important, it will benefit the many people in this part of the world who will come here to receive the absolute best, most advanced care available anywhere. We are tremendously proud and excited to be part of this new venture. Our hope--and our belief--is that this represents the beginning of a long, productive and mutually beneficial relationship that will advance the cause of medical science for all humanity.