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Sukanto Tanoto: Funding Life-changing Professorship Programmes Through the Tanoto Foundation

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Founded by Sukanto Tanoto and Tinah Bingei Tanoto in 1981, the Tanoto Foundation is an independent philanthropic organisation based on the belief that every person should have the opportunity to realise his or her full potential.

Over the years, the Tanoto Foundation has had an incredible impact in Asia, particularly Indonesia, China, and Singapore. The Tanoto Foundation’s programmes harness the strength of education to improve lives.

The Tanoto Foundation has come to represent Sukanto Tanoto’s commitment towards improving medical research, in order to help better understand diseases prevalent in Asia. As such, the Tanoto Foundation funds research into diseases that are endemic to the region. Through their longstanding partnership with the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, Sukanto Tanoto helps fund professorships and research facilities.

Thus far, this incredible professorship programme has been awarded to three deserving candidates, whose consequent research has had a measurable impact on medical research. One of the recipients of the professorship, Prof. Stuart Cook, was the only recipient of the President’s Technology Award (PTA) for his work in identifying new genes and pathways for heart disease.

He is a cardiologist at the National Heart Centre Singapore, Director of the National Heart Research Institute Singapore, and Programme Director of the CVMD (Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders) programme at Duke-NUS.

Prof. Cook led a study in Singapore in order to investigate whether mutations in the titin gene are responsible for heart muscle weakness in Asians. His team discovered a critical role for the IL-11 cytokine in fibrosis and inflammation.

The long-term goal of Prof. Cook’s research is to understand cardiometabolic disease mechanisms and translate these discoveries to healthcare. The findings of his study have aided in the development of a commercially available, next-generation test kit, a heart-testing device which is now used by 10,000 patients a year around the world.

In May 2016, the Tanoto Foundation Professorship in Medical Oncology was conferred to Prof. Lim Soon Thye, an outstanding clinician and researcher. Prof. Lim’s research focus is on lymphoid malignancies; in particular, T- and (NK)/T-cell lymphomas that occur more frequently in Asia. He is further the Co-Founder of the Asian Lymphoma Study Group and the lead investigator in a translational and clinical research (TCR) flagship programme funded by the National Medical Research Council (National Lymphoma Translational Research Programme: From Genomics to Therapeutics).

Prof. Lim’s team currently leads the blood cancer (T-cell lymphoma) genetics project at the International Cancer Genomics Consortium. The Professorship included an SGD 2.5 million donation from the Tanoto Foundation and focuses on research to improve diagnostic and clinical outcomes for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As such, Prof. Lim’s work is groundbreaking and life-changing for individuals battling this disease.

Prof. Karl Tryggvason is the third recipient of the prestigious Tanoto Foundation Professorship. An award-winning, talented, and highly acclaimed researcher, Prof. Karl is a Professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, Adjunct Professor at Duke University, North Carolina, and Emeritus Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Prof. Karl’s research concerns the molecular composition, biology, and diseases of basement membranes (BM), a special compartment of the extracellular matrix. Led by Prof. Karl, his group has cloned almost all human BM proteins and clarified genetic causes of many BM-associated diseases. He has studied matrix metalloproteinases, discovered MMP-2, and determined its crystal structure, along with numerous other discoveries.

His group currently works on stem cell development for regenerative medicine. In such a manner, Sukanto Tanoto has aided groundbreaking medical research in Asia, through the transformative power of the Tanoto Foundation.