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Duke school in Singapore gets $160M

The Estate of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat donated $80 million to the Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School this week-a gift that will be matched by the government of Singapore, giving the school a grand total of $160 million, University officials said.

The funds will help strengthen a partnership between Duke University Health System and scientists abroad to help support global health initiatives and advances-themes outlined by the medical center's most recent strategic plan.

Duke and NUS formally joined in April 2005, under a seven-year agreement to develop a curriculum and infrastructure very similar to those of the Duke School of Medicine.

"This is a very important day for medical education, healthcare research and philanthropy in Singapore," said Singapore Minister for Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

A large portion of the $160 million will be used for the school's "signature research programs" in areas such as infectious diseases, neurobehavioral disorders, cancer and Alzheimer's disease, Dr. Sanders Williams, dean of the School of Medicine and of the GMS, wrote in an e-mail. He added that about half the funds will become an endowment.

Williams said the gift will build upon the approximately $500-million investment already committed to the GMS from Singapore's government.

"The Estate's extraordinary philanthropic gesture will enhance the GMS' ability to train excellent physician-scientists to create new knowledge and translate that knowledge into important healthcare practices that lead to better clinical outcomes and reduce the burden of disease in Singapore and around the world," Williams said in a statement Wednesday.

The Khoo gift will aid dramatically in realizing Singapore's Biomedical Science Initiative-a plan established in 2000 that aims to make Singapore the biomedical hub of Asia. It is also one of the primary goals of the partnership between Duke and NUS.

The money will be used to support the creation of a joint medical degree from Duke University and the NUS for graduates of the four-year GMS program, Williams said.

"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Estate's very generous gift to GMS and the award of the joint Duke-NUS degree," Tony Chew, chairman of the GMS governing board, said in a statement. "They will empower the GMS to excel in research, to attract the very best students and to provide the finest medical education that will produce clinical and academic leaders."

Mavis Khoo, the late Tan Sri Khoo's daughter, said she hopes the gift will make a "real and substantial difference to the lives of people in Singapore and around the world."

In order to honor the generous gift, the main building of the GMS, slated for completion in 2009, will be named the "Khoo Teck Puat building." It will house state-of-the-art research, education and administrative facilities.

Williams said the donation came after a long period of building a relationship with the prominent Singapore family and will help develop local research talent and fund projects on infectious diseases and other health concerns prevalent in the country.

A likely candidate for study would be myopia-a disease from which approximately 90 percent of the Singapore population suffers.

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