News: LKCMedicine scientists awarded top honours for contributions to improving health outcomes

LKCMedicine scientists were honoured for their outstanding contributions towards improving health outcomes or delivery at the National Healthcare Group (NHG) Research and Innovation Awards on 7 October.

LKCMedicine Professor of Cardiovascular Epidemiology John Chambers was presented the NHG-LKCMedicine Clinician/Clinical Scientist Award, a new award that recognises those who have contributed to the advancement of scientific research and knowledge. At the same time, LKCMedicine Associate Professors Sanjay Chotirmall and Tan Cher Heng were members of two teams who won the NHG Research Impact Award.

Thought leader in population studies for disease prevention

As one of the inaugural recipients of the NHG-LKCMedicine Clinician/Clinical Scientist Award, Prof Chambers was honoured for his contributions to advancing scientific research and knowledge in the field of translational, clinical and population health, and his track record for excellence in research. 

Prof Chambers, who is also the President’s Chair in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, is at the forefront of establishing longitudinal population studies in Europe, South Asia and Singapore. His research focuses on identifying new strategies for the prediction and prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in Asian populations. 

Elaborating on the impact of his research, Prof Chambers said, "On the observational side, myself working with a number of colleagues have put together large-scale population studies that allow us to do a deep dive into what might be the genetic, the environmental, and the behavioural factors that are determining chronic disease in our populations. That has led to a range of new insights, for example, identifying a large number of genetic variation and gene pathways that are driving chronic disease.”

“On the translational side, we are using the insights to say, ‘How can we better identify who’s at high risk?’ and ‘How can we better deliver preventative and health promotion care?’ so that we can help people live healthier lives, fulfil their human potential and avoid long-term disease,” he added.

He is the chief investigator for the Health for Life in Singapore (HELIOS) study, a state-of-the-art population cohort study established and led by LKCMedicine in partnership with NHG and Imperial College London. The study aims to identify environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors that cause heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases in Singapore. It will provide a powerful resource for medical research across a wide range of disciplines that will be accessible to biomedical researchers worldwide.

As Chief Scientific Officer for the Singapore National Precision Medicine (NPM) programme, Prof Chambers has led the completion of Phase 1 for whole genome sequencing and DNA methylation profiling of 10,000 Singaporeans, with linkage to selected research phenotypes, and opportunities to further the understanding of genetic and genomic variation in Asian populations. In the second phase of the NPM programme, the team will carry out genome sequencing on 150,000 people, including the participants of HELIOS and SG100K, to advance molecular epidemiological research.

Impactful research to improve patients' lives

From left: Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) Clinical A/Prof John Abisheganaden, LKCMedicine A/Prof Sanjay Chotirmall and TTSH Adj A/Prof Albert Lim

LKCMedicine Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs A/Prof Chotirmall, who is also Provost's Chair in Molecular Medicine, and his collaborators at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) won the NHG Research Impact Award for research that has demonstrated an impact on healthcare provision nationally and internationally. 

Together with team leader Adjunct Associate Professor Albert Lim and Clinical Associate Professor John Abisheganaden from TTSH, the team has uncovered that Singaporeans, and Asians in general, who suffer from bronchiectasis often display sensitivity to airborne allergens.

The team also created a multidisciplinary one-stop service for bronchiectasis, which provides patients with joint care on medical, nursing, and physiotherapy with a one-visit, one-site, and one-team of specialists.

The service has made a significant impact on clinical outcomes and a positive change in patients’ attitude towards the long-term treatment of this devastating disease. It has also reduced hospitalisation and emergency department attendance rate due to bronchiectasis by more than 50 per cent.

“It is a success of team spirit, team science and the importance of collaboration in research. One of the big issues in bronchiectasis is that no two patients are the same. Patients are quite individual, and we need tailored approaches for individual subgroups and subtypes of patients, which is really the basis of the work that we have done here, which involves collaboration between top-level clinical care, strong translational science as well as very good service delivery. All three go hand in hand in the work we have done in this space,” said A/Prof Chotirmall.

The team comprising LKCMedicine Assistant Dean for Clinical Research A/Prof Tan and consultants from TTSH’s Institute of Geriatrics and Active Aging also received the NHG Research Impact Award for contributing to geriatric research through their work on sarcopenia.

A/Prof Tan, who is also Senior Consultant with TTSH’s Department of Diagnostic Radiology, said, “It has been a privilege to be a collaborator in this project. Even though I’m not a geriatrician, we did find that imaging was a useful tool for the diagnosis of sarcopenia. And I would encourage my colleagues from other clinical disciplines to come forward and take part in this very meaningful and impactful research.”