Singapore Targets Widespread Implementation of Precision Medicine, Launches Phase II of its 10-Year Plan

by Tyler Chen
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Singapore announced that it is starting the phase II of its National Precision Medicine (NPM) strategy, a 10-year initiative on precision medicine. Scheduled to begin in April 2021, the phase II is set for a timeline of four years. It will aim to analyze the genetic makeup of Singaporeans, generate better patient outcomes, and expand global economic opportunities for the healthcare and biomedical technology industry.


The 10-Year Plan

Launched in 2017, the NPM strategy is a part of Singapore’s Research, Innovation, and Enterprise (RIE) 2025 strategic goal. Singapore’s rapidly aging population is expected to exert huge demands on its healthcare infrastructure. Therefore, precision medicine is one of the targeted goals under the Human Health and Potential Domain of RIE2025. In two years, the plan has created the world’s largest genetic data bank for multi-ethnic Asian populations comprising about 10,000 healthy Singaporeans. The phase I was completed in October 2019.


Three Majors Goals of Phase II

The phase II of the NPM strategy will mainly focus on three goals:

  1. Analyze the genetic makeup of 100,000 healthy Singaporeans and 50,000 patients with specific diseases to gain insights into the Asian phenotype
  2. Implement precision medicine initiatives in clinical trials to improve disease prognosis
  3. Attract overseas investment and create opportunities for local companies in the healthcare and biotech sector

The Singapore government has established Precision Health Research, Singapore (PRECISE) as a central entity to coordinate the 10-year plan. In phase II, PRECISE will work with healthcare institutions and doctors, including the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, National Healthcare Group, National University Health System, National University of Singapore, and SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, to study the genetic makeup in the data bank. The genetic data will then be integrated with detailed lifestyle, environmental, and clinical data to gain important insights into the factors that contribute to Asian diseases.

“With insights into these disease-causing factors, researchers and doctors can develop new approaches that will not only benefit patients in the short term but for decades to come,” said Professor John Chambers, Chief Scientific Officer of PRECISE. “As this will require big data analysis to generate insights, we have also stepped up efforts to ensure a secure and trustworthy data environment by actively working with various government agencies to build a robust infrastructure with safeguards in place to preserve data security and privacy,” he added.


Growth in Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Sector

Singapore’s BMS sectors have grown substantially in the past few years. Currently, there are more than 330 BMS startups which is twice the number in 2014. The R&D spending in the sector has increased five times from 2013 to 2018. Besides, Singapore had around 32 billion manufacturing output from the sector in 2019. All in all, Singapore expects to continue the growing trend as the precision medicine initiative marches on.

Related Article: Singapore Researchers Design New C to G Base Editor to Correct Disease-Associated Mutations


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