Precision Health Research, the lead entity implementing Singapore’s National Precision Medicine strategy, has teamed up with genomics technology firm Illumina, for a large-scale population study on diseases relevant to Asian people.
The project, titled SG100K, will sequence and analyse the genomes of about 100,000 consenting participants around Singapore with Chinese, Malay, and Indian backgrounds, representing about 80% of the population across Asia. It is envisioned to be the region’s most comprehensive precision medicine database generating deep insights into Asian genomic diversity and Asian-specific diseases.
The three-year partnership will leverage Illumina’s capabilities in large-scale genomic sequencing to generate high-quality genomic data at an accelerated speed. The partners will also use enterprise-grade data exchange platforms for the secure handling and sharing of anonymised biospecimen data for sequencing, as well as develop AI approaches for genomics analysis.
“Our health data access, management and storage will be benchmarked against international best practices and safeguards,” added John Chambers, PRECISE’s chief scientific officer and principal investigator of the SG100k project.
Multiple research and clinical partners, such as medical schools and healthcare clusters, will also be engaged in the project.
WHY IT MATTERS
SG100k will allow Singaporeans to better understand key social, environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors linked to diseases relevant to their population, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. The project will also enable the adoption of data-driven approaches to improve population health and patient outcomes.
Additionally, the project will benefit local sequencing companies in Singapore by providing them training and certification in using Illumina’s genomic tech platforms, allowing them to gain access to markets locally and abroad. NovogeneAIT Genomics Singapore, a local next-generation sequencing service provider, has been tapped by Illumina to carry out the genome sequencing of targeted participants of the SG100k project.
THE LARGER TREND
Singapore’s Ministry of Health has considered precision medicine as one approach to tackle its healthcare challenges. The country’s National Research Foundation, which funds PRECISE, also identified precision medicine as a strategic goal of its Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan to transform and protect the health of Singaporeans.
In other related news, Google Cloud partnered with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney to build what could be the largest genome data set in Australia – targeting to process about 14,000 genomes – to improve the diagnosis of rare genetic disorders.
ON THE RECORD
“Together, PRECISE and Illumina will work to advance Singapore’s biomedical technology industry through creating bespoke data analytics capabilities, establishing large-scale genomic data infrastructure, and creating new career opportunities to support Singapore’s National Precision Medicine programme”, said Illumina Chief Commercial Officer Susan Tousi.
She also sees the project as a “breakthrough study [that] will serve as an important catalyst for growth in precision medicine capabilities throughout Southeast Asia”.
PRECISE Executive Director Patrick Tan also remarked that their partnership with Illumina is a “testament to our shared ambitions and [a] common vision to improve patient outcomes and future-proof Singapore’s population health through the adoption of genomics and data-driven approaches in diseases relevant to Asia”.