13 November 2019
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) officially opens the P.H. Feng Research Centre (PHFRC) today to conduct investigational medicine and clinical trials.
The growing clinical research culture at TTSH will be further strengthened by the research centre, aptly named in honour of the late Prof Feng Pao Hsii.
A visionary medical leader, Prof Feng set up the clinical research unit (CRU) in TTSH in 1997, with fewer than 10 staff to support clinical researchers. His purpose was to empower clinical excellence through research and innovation. As a researcher, he contributed over 150 journal articles. Particularly noteworthy were his study on the impact of lupus on quality of life of lupus patients in Singapore and being one of the first doctors in the world to discover the use of the drug Cyclophosphamide in the treatment of lupus. Prof Feng is widely recognised as Singapore’s ‘Father of Rheumatology’. He established Singapore’s first Department of Rheumatology and Immunology at TTSH in 1995 and laid the groundwork for formal infectious disease training in Singapore. He retired in 2010 but continued as a respected Emeritus Consultant at TTSH. Prof Feng passed on in 2015 but his passion for research still lives on and is deeply ingrained in TTSH.
Today, the CRU has grown in strength and evolved into the TTSH Clinical Research and Innovation Office (CRIO) with more than 70 staff who support clinician scientists in their research work. TTSH researchers publish about 400 articles a year in local and international peer-reviewed journals. Among these researchers are 7 clinician scientists on various prestigious National Talent Development Programmes and 8 clinicians on National Medical Research Council (NMRC) Research training fellowships.
Mdm Hazel Feng, Prof Feng’s goddaughter said, “Prof Feng was a very caring person to all and a dedicated physician to his patients. From his own experience, he learnt how important mentorship was. Thus, he wanted to give back, and has helped to mentor a lot of students. I am glad that his legacy continues in this research centre, named after him, especially when research was one of his well-loved interest.”
The PHFRC is nested within the HealthCity Novena Campus in the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) building. The research centre is strategically located with close proximity to National Skin Centre (NSC), Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) and TTSH which allows for synergy and optimised resources to bring about better research outcomes.
Dr Eugene Fidelis Soh, Chief Executive Officer of Tan Tock Seng Hospital said, “Establishing the PHFRC as a successful early phase clinical trial centre is an integral step for consolidating and expanding research capabilities in TTSH, to provide our clinicians with greater opportunities to conduct clinical trials, in a safe and controlled environment. In particular, early phase studies which require overnight monitoring of study subjects can now be conducted here. I do hope that with this new facility, clinician investigators and clinical research coordinators have greater opportunities to deepen their capabilities, and conduct clinical trials safely and ethically.”
THE PHFRC occupies a floor space of 822 square metres. The modern centre facilities include examination rooms, infusion rooms and 15 beds for in-patient studies, dedicated drug and specimen processing capabilities and a skin imaging room are all housed under one roof to provide better coordination and improve care for patients on clinical trials.
Some key projects the PHFRC can support:
Situated within NCID, the PHFRC will also form an integral part of the defence of Singapore against infectious diseases.
Frequent international travel increases the risk of new pathogens emerging in Singapore, from Ebola and SARS to Monkeypox and Zika. NCID is internationally recognised for its outbreak investigation and containment capabilities. The PHFRC will provide the space and expertise for vital research to find new treatments for these high-consequence pathogens.
The PHFRC will also drive collaborative Infectious Disease research with academic and industry partners in Singapore and worldwide. This includes early phase studies of new antibiotics to combat antimicrobial resistance, developing effective vaccines against common infections in older adults, and immunotherapy.
The PHFRC is currently hosting clinical trials in medical oncology stemming from collaboration with key pharmaceutical companies such as Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), TESSA Therapeutics and Novartis.
The Skin Research Institute of Singapore (SRIS), a set up between the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), NSC and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), will house its new skin imaging machines in the centre to support research study in collaboration between SRIS, NSC, LKCMedicine and TTSH. The imaging tools developed from this study will enable more accurate skin cancer diagnosis, individualised surgery and imaging of skin inflammation. These skin imaging tools will also enable the study of novel biomarkers for eczema and how to predict response to treatment.
Mr Frederick Chew, Chief Executive Officer of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the guest-of-honour said in his speech, “As a nation, we are always striving to improve our healthcare outcomes, develop the capability to prevent diseases, detect them early or stem the progress of illness through scientific discovery and technological advancements. Multi-agency collaboration is important for Singapore, no least when it comes to disease outbreaks. The P.H. Feng Research Centre is a key addition to the research infrastructure, and it will become a key focal point for collaboration between the clinicians based in this campus and external partners such as A*STAR.”
Prof Lim Tock Han, Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer (Education and Research), National Healthcare Group said, “I see establishing the P.H Feng Research Centre as a great win for NHG research, as the facility provides a dedicated, safe environment for clinical trials for clinicians and scientists to work together in the Novena Campus. This facility will not only benefit TTSH, NCID but also the National Skin Centre (NSC) and LKCMedicine which are in close proximity.
The key research foci of NHG: population health, ageing and rehab, infectious disease, skin, mental health and metabolic disease have today received a boost in opportunities for collaborative research.”
The PHFRC, as a robust facility for clinical trials will further enhance the research landscape of TTSH to support advanced research practices. It will also ramp up opportunity for collaboration and partnership in Singapore to bring about better care and value to our patients through novel therapies.