“We are entering one of the most profound periods of human advancement, one predicated on the benefits of science,” said world-renowned cancer researcher Edison Liu, Ph.D., the newly elected president of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) that was established by scientists in 1989 to promote and sustain international collaboration in the study of genes in health and disease.
Dr. Liu, who is the founding executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) that is part of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), describes the presidency of HUGO as “a great opportunity to make a difference in the world of genomic medicine, at a time when it is moving into clinical practice and into national policy.” He began his three-year term in May 2007.
“There are two areas I would like to have HUGO focus on during my tenure,” Dr. Liu added. “First is to explore and enhance the field of genomic medicine. This means using powerful genomic technologies in medical practice. That transition is not a simple one and will require much thought and wisdom.
“The second focus will be on enhancing genomic sciences in the emerging and developing countries of the world,” he said. “Genomic approaches to disease, pathogens, and the environment can help these countries advance.” One of the first initiatives on Dr. Liu’s agenda for HUGO is a formal study of the impact of genomic medicine on global health.
New HUGO headquarters at Biopolis, Singapore
HUGO, once described as the “United Nations of genome research” by the molecular biology pioneer Norton Zinger, Ph.D., will move its headquarters from London to Singapore. In Singapore, HUGO’s headquarters will be based at Biopolis, the campus of GIS and the other biomedical research institutes under A*STAR.
Elected to the three-year post by the unanimous vote of HUGO’s 18-member council, Dr. Liu continues to head GIS, where he integrated genomic sciences with cell and medical biology in order to accelerate the labs’ discoveries. In the GIS, he also heads a robust laboratory program in cancer genomics. Dr. Liu’s research is widely credited with markedly improving scientific understanding of the molecular biology of breast cancer and the potential therapeutic relevance of the mutations that have been detected in cancer-associated genes.
Dr. Liu also holds the post of executive director of the Singapore Cancer Syndicate. In this role, he leads an integrated effort to provide a robust and competitive translational platform for cancer research in Singapore, with the ultimate aim of improving healthcare and treatment therapies of cancer patients.
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More about GIS:
The Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) is a member of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Established in 2001, the research institute’s mission is to be a world-class genomics institute and a centre for genomic discovery. GIS pursues the integration of technology, genetics and biology towards the goal of individualized medicine. The genomics infrastructure at GIS is utilized to train new scientific talent, to act as a bridge between academic and industrial research, and explore scientific questions of high impact.
More about Dr. Edison Liu:
In 2001, Dr. Liu gave up a high level scientific post at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, to become a leader of science as well as a working researcher in Singapore.
“Singapore is now perhaps the most exciting place in the world to do science,” said Dr. Liu, now a permanent resident of Singapore.
That year, he became the founding Executive Director of GIS and Professor of Medicine at the National University of Singapore.
Dr. Liu has been a pioneer in using an integrated, investigative approach to decipher the biology of human breast cancers and to identify clinically useful biomarkers. His gene-discovery strategy has identified novel kinases, proteins that help regulate gene activity, and gene cassettes, or clusters, whose interactions maintain cancerous tissues. His recent research focuses on the activity, or expression, patterns of genes involved in human cancers and the signaling pathways that characterize cancer cells.
Born in Hong Kong, Dr. Liu immigrated to the United States in 1957. Subsequently at Stanford University, he was awarded the Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and psychology and the Phi Beta Kappa honour at graduation.
After receiving his M.D. degree from Stanford in 1978, he completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Washington University, St. Louis, and clinical cancer fellowships at Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).
After his post-doctoral studies as a Damon-Bunyan Cancer Research Fellow in the UCSF laboratory of Nobel laureate Dr. J. Michael Bishop, he joined the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. In 1996, he was recruited to the NCI where he was director of the Division of Clinical Sciences before joining Singapore’s A*STAR.
Among his many honours are the Brinker International Award from the Susan Komen Foundation, the Rosenthal Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and the Doctor of Medical Science honoris causa from Queen's University Belfast.
More about HUGO
The Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) is the international organisation of scientists involved in human genetics. Established in 1989 by a collection of the world's leading human geneticists, the primary ethos of the Human Genome Organisation is to promote and sustain international collaboration in the field of human genetics.