Your Excellency, Mr Paul Madden, British High Commissioner, Singapore. It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Biopolis for this two-day

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1 OPENING SPEECH BY MR LIM CHUAN POH, CHAIRMAN, AGENCY FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND RESEARCH, AT THE UK-SINGAPORE SYMPOSIUM ON P53: THE NEXT 30 YEARS, 25 NOVEMBER BREAKTHROUGH THEATRETTE, MATRIX, BIOPOLIS Your Excellency, Mr Paul Madden, British High Commissioner, Singapore Distinguished guests Ladies and Gentlemen A very good morning to all of you Introduction It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Biopolis for this two-day symposium on p53 under the auspices of the UK-Singapore Partners in Science programme. Since this programme started in 2004, the UK and Singapore have jointly organized 28 symposia or an average of 4 to 5 symposia per year. Over the years, these symposia have helped to connect 145 UK scientists with the Singapore research community, and 93 Singapore researchers have taken up Collaboration Development Awards to follow-up on collaboration opportunities with UK-based scientists. 1

2 This would not have been possible without the strong support of Paul Madden, the British High Commissioner who personally officiated 12 symposia in the last few years, and Sam Myers, First Secretary for Science & Innovation, who organized 16 of the symposia. This close working relationship between the UK and Singapore augurs well for us, and we are keen to take this to an even higher level in the years to come. Cancer Research in Singapore This p53 symposium is organized by Chandra Verma of A*STAR s Bioinformatics Institute and David Lane, A*STAR s Chief Scientist and Director of the new p53 Lab here. 22 million people in the world today are living with Cancer. Cancer is the most frequent cause of death in Singapore and takes over 5000 lives from our 5 million population every year. Despite enormous advances in our understanding of the disease and recent improvements in early diagnosis and treatment much remains to be done to lessen the burden of this disease on society. For example, in Singapore, we have a particular focus on the study of gastric cancer, which is prevalent in this region. 2

3 In this cancer, as in so many others, we find p53 mutations in at least half the tumors examined. In Singapore we have established very strong public health and prevention programs such that we have, at 14% of the adult population, one of the lowest frequencies of smokers of any country in the world. We have built two state-of-the-art National Cancer Centers the National Cancer Center at Outram and the National University Cancer Institute at Kent Ridge. More recently, we further enhance our capability in cancer research with the establishment of the Cancer Sciences Institute at the National University of Singapore. This is a $170m investment by the government over the next 7 years. We have also invested significantly in clinical and pre-clinical imaging centers and in infrastructure for clinical trials. To make clinical trials work, we recognise the need for and fully supported Clinician Scientists with a range of awards. One such award is the Singapore Translational Research Investigator Award or STaR award for short. 3

4 This is a prestigious award offered by the Singapore Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council to recruit top-notch clinician scientists to carry out medical research. Tenable in Singapore, this award provides research and salary funding over a period of five years for STaR Investigators to start a new research programme which can potentially advance Singapore s priorities in biomedical research and healthcare or contribute to the Translational and Clinical Research (TCR) Flagship Programmes. STaR Investigators may also spend up to 20% of their time engaging in direct patient care in Singapore. Cancer Research by A*STAR Researchers Many research groups at the Biopolis are also focusing on Cancer Research including work on cancer genomics led by Edison Liu of the Genome Institute of Singapore and on mouse models spearheaded by Neal Copeland, Nancy Jenkins and Jean-Paul Thiery of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the important oncogenome project established by Axel Ulrich, now hosted by the Institute of Medical Biology. 4

5 In a new development, we have established the Experimental Therapeutics Center here at the Biopolis with state-of-the-art screening capacity initiated by David Lane and now headed by Alex Matter, the former head of Novartis Oncology and a key figure in the development of Glivec for the treatment of leukemia. p53 the guardian of the genome The focus of your discussions over the next two days is on one extraordinary protein, p53 the guardian of the genome - as it was christened by David a few years ago. It is thirty years now since this protein was first described by David and Lionel Crawford and later on by Dan Linzer and Arnie Levine. But it was not until the early nineties that its enormous importance in human disease was fully realized. In a very intense period, p53 was established as a gene that is mutated and inactivated in half of all cases of human cancer and the race was on. How does p53 work? What does it do to stop cancer developing and, most importantly, how can we use this knowledge to impact healthcare and benefit people? 5

6 Some 50,000 papers and twenty years later, we have come to understand p53 s role as a tumor suppressor gene and p53 based diagnostics and therapies are in clinical trial in many countries. Only in China, however, is p53 based gene therapy approved and in widespread use. A recently published survey of the success of this therapy, called Gendicine, detailed the response of some 2500 patients to this therapy. In general, the therapy acted to enhance the response to radiation in this large group of patients. Trials of Gendicine are now scheduled to start in the United States so that the therapy can potentially be approved by the FDA. Here in Singapore, many groups have made notable contributions to p53 research including the outstanding work of the Genome Institute of Singapore in studying p53 gene expression signatures in breast cancer and p53 binding sites in chromatin; David and his colleagues description of new p53 isoforms that are conserved in evolution; and the most recent landmark discovery of how p53 could switch a gene in a cell off rather than on by recognizing a specific subset of sequences of nucleotides in the gene s p53 binding site known as a suppressor element by the Singapore Immunology Network. 6

7 At this meeting, I believe we will be announcing the formation of a p53 club for researchers in Singapore, which is initiated by David and Chandra. This club will further add to the efforts to build and strengthen the science community in Singapore. Given what has happened in the past 30 years, I believe the next thirty years of p53 research will be even more important. As we increasingly understand its role in different forms of cancer but also it s broader effects on fertility, aging, metabolism, inflammation and the nervous and immune systems. We can expect new insights but also, David assures me, new medicines! All of you here today can play a part in making these discoveries count. Scientific Collaborations I am delighted to welcome our overseas speakers here today. Thank you for taking the time to come and discuss your results with us. It is a major hope of this programme that it will foster new collaborations between UK and Singapore, and A*STAR and the High Commission have a number of programmes available to support exchange visits and both graduate and postgraduate studies around such collaborations. 7

8 We are delighted that several of our most promising students are studying for their PhDs in universities such as Dundee, Cambridge, and Oxford. These stints in the UK can only reinforce the already strong scientific relations that exist between the UK and Singapore. Conclusion Science thrives in an environment of challenging discussion and free exchange and I know the next two days will be full of inspiring debate and renewed insight and resolution. In this regard, I wish all of you a fruitful discussion. Thank you. 8

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