11 of the world’s most distinguished biomedical experts from renowned research institutions such as the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Harvard University, Columbia University, the J Craig Venter Institute, California; and The Chinese University of Hong Kong converged on Sunway University recently for the International Symposium on Precision Medicine (ISPM), themed “The Future of Population Health.” The Symposium held at Sunway University was mainly sponsored by the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF).
The JCF brought in internationally renowned experts from the world’s most powerful nations, which are pursuing the promise of precision medicine. By bringing in these specialised speakers, Sunway University intends to communicate the latest global developments in precision medicine research and to spark a discussion on precision medicine’s implications on the future of healthcare in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
Among the prominent presenters was Dr Mark Boguski, a molecular pathologist who introduced the term “precision medicine” from Harvard Medical School into the medical literature in 2009. US President Barack Obama who unveiled the USD 215 million Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) last year, then popularised the term. Professor Patrick Maxwell, Regius Professor of Physic at the University of Cambridge, who was appointed by Her Majesty the Queen in 2012, and is part of the University of Cambridge’s Biomedical Campus, the hub for UK Government’s GPB 50 million Catapult Programme in Precision Medicine was the keynote speaker at the Symposium.
The Jeffrey Cheah Professorial Fellows, Professor John Todd FRS, Professor of Medical Genetics, University of Cambridge; Professor Khaw Kay-Tee, CBE, Professor of Clinical Gerontology, University of Cambridge; and Professor William James, Professor of Virology, University of Oxford, also shared their areas of medical expertise with the 450 delegates present.
“As an entrepreneur who is invested in the future of our generations, and having had the chance to learn from some medical professionals, about its impact to humankind’s health and well-being; we at Sunway and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, are excited about the incredible promise of precision medicine for Malaysia and the world’s population. I am truly delighted that we are able to provide the platform and infrastructure here at Sunway, to facilitate a conference of this magnitude, with world-renowned experts, to discuss breakthrough ideas and initiatives that will bring about remarkable changes to medicine in Malaysia and throughout the region,” said Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, Founder and Chairman of the Sunway Group, Chancellor of Sunway University and Founding Trustee of the JCF.
“Innovations in precision medicine by Malaysian researchers and entrepreneurs will create strong economic benefits for the nation. These developments promote the creation of new jobs and new industries, in healthcare and health tourism, to boost the economy, and to share in cutting edge medical frontier technology,” he continued.
“To enter into this promising new era of healthcare, we will need to first gather the best knowledge from around the world. We also need to build a network of people in Malaysia who are committed to furthering the reach of precision medicine. And that is why we are all here today; to connect the top global thought-leaders in the medical field with you, the ones that can truly make a difference: the academics, professionals, and most of all, the young people who will be our future leaders of this nation, right here in Malaysia, in one place, to explore, what may be the greatest opportunities for medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen”, he further explained.
Precision medicine is a new approach to disease prevention and treatment that takes into account differences in people’s genome, environments and lifestyles. This customised approach overcomes the challenge of how some treatments can be successful for some patients and not others. It also gives clinicians tools to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying a patient’s health, disease, or condition, and to better predict which treatments will be the most effective.
Guest of Honour, YB Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, the Minister of Health Malaysia at the official opening ceremony of the Symposium said, “The promise of precision medicine is important to us as a nation, as we pursue our goal to become an advanced nation on multiple dimensions by 2020; not only by being an advanced economy, but also a caring and inclusive nation which is truly integrated and united. The wellbeing of the people plays a crucial role in realising this noble goal”.
He also said precision medicine could create a real difference for the rakyat, in relation to two strategic thrusts of the Eleventh Malaysian Plan for it has the potential to revolutionise the wellbeing of the rakyat while creating a new area of growth for our economy through innovations.
YB Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam further explained that to deliver on its potential, it is of utmost importance that all citizens and stakeholders – public, private sectors and NGOs – in a collaborative manner, have a shared responsibility to build a more cohesive society that reflects the best ideals of Malaysia’s founding fathers, and the hopes and dreams of future generations come together.
The Symposium, co-hosted by Sunway University, Sunway Medical Centre and the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University Malaysia, was supported by the Ministry of Health Malaysia and Akademi Sains Malaysia.