The Tanoto Foundation and the Duke-NUS Medical School: An Incredible Long-standing Partnership by Sukanto Tanoto

Dedicated to improving the quality of life of communities across Asia, the Tanoto Foundation is an independent philanthropic organisation by RGE founder Sukanto Tanoto and his wife Tinah Bingei Tanoto. It was founded with the aim of harnessing the transformative strength of education to realise people’s full potential and improve lives.

Going beyond basic education, Sukanto Tanoto has repeatedly proven his strong commitment towards improving healthcare in the region through the incredible long-standing partnership between the Tanoto Foundation and the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.

Since the Tanoto Foundation has identified that medical research in Asia is limited when compared with the West, it is well-known that illnesses highly prevalent in Asia are often poorly understood. Armed with the goal of addressing and reducing this imbalance in medical research, Tanoto funds professorships and research facilities at the medical school in order to facilitate research into diseases that are endemic to the region and Asia.

Sukanto Tanoto has had a measurable impact on health in the region and continues to do so. In 2009, the Tanoto Foundation donated S$5 million to Duke-NUS and established the Tanoto Initiative for Diabetes Research and the Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Metabolism and Endocrinology, to support diabetes research that focuses on Asian ethnic groups, diets, and cultures.

The National Heart Research Institute Singapore (NHRIS) is a joint venture between the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) and Duke-NUS. In 2014, the Tanoto Foundation Initiative for Genetics and Stem Cell Research was launched at the NHRIS, contributing towards this facility for cardiovascular research in Asia.

That very year, the Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Cardiovascular Medicine was conferred to Professor Stuart Cook, who then went on to lead a revolutionary study. His discovery catalysed the development of a commercially available, next-generation heart-testing device to screen for inherited heart conditions. This device is now used by 10,000 patients a year, all around the world.

In 2016, an S$2.5 million Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Medical Oncology was conferred to the Head and Senior Consultant of the Division of Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Centre Singapore and Assistant Dean at the Duke-NUS Medical School, Assoc. Prof. Lim Soon Thye. An outstanding clinician and researcher, the funding by Sukanto Tanoto helped advance Assoc. Prof. Lim’s research on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer prevalent in Asia, which ranks among the top 10 cancers in Singapore. The professorship is helping advance the search for novel diagnostic strategies, drugs, and treatments that can improve survival rates for lymphoma patients.

In 2018, Prof. Karl Tryggvason from Duke-NUS Medical School’s Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme and Dr. Alvin Chua from the Singapore General Hospital discovered a new method to culture human cells to produce skin grafts, the first step to creating a safer treatment for severe burns, likely to translate into novel treatments for different skin disorders.

Through its partnership with the Duke-NUS Medical School, the Tanoto Foundation has contributed a total S$11 million to advancing Asia-focused research in diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and lymphoma. Each step is a reflection of Sukanto Tanoto’s growing commitment to enhancing Asia’s quality of life, and work towards the fight against fatal ailments affecting the lives of millions.