Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Health what is being done by the Government to fast-track the development and launch of mRNA-based vaccines for cancer in Singapore.
The Senior Minister of State for Health (Dr Janil Puthucheary) (for the Minister for Health): Sir, cancer is a priority disease area for research in Singapore. Through Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) funding over the years, competitive cancer research projects in Singapore have been supported by Ministry of Health (MOH)’s National Medical Research Council, including the development of mRNA-based cancer vaccines.
For example, the National University Cancer Institute, Singapore is developing an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) vaccine platform using lipid nanoparticle mRNA vaccine technology. A*STAR is leading research that combines genomic knowledge about EBV and nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC), to develop better mRNA vaccines against EBV that can reduce the risk of developing NPC which tends to affect Asians more. Scientists at the National University of Singapore are investigating the combined use of a personalized RNA-based cancer vaccine with RNA based immune-checkpoint inhibitor treatments for patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Research on the efficacy of mRNA-based vaccines against cancers is still at an early stage and none has been approved yet to treat or prevent cancer. However, given the potential of this approach, MOH will continue to support the development of suitable mRNA-based vaccines to treat cancer as well as other important medical conditions in Singapore.
This includes: one, providing funding support for such research; two, supporting research collaborations between our researchers and overseas partners; three, supporting local research focusing on diseases that affect our local ethnic populations disproportionately; and four. working through the Singapore Translational Cancer Consortium to better coordinate, integrate and support the work of key local cancer research stakeholders.
Mr Speaker: Mr Leon Perera.
Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): I thank the Senior Minister of State for his reply. Just one supplementary question. Before that, I will declare my interest as the chairman of a consultancy that does work in the biomedical space, among other verticals.
I am wondering if MOH is also, in addition to what the Senior Minister of State shared, positioning Singapore as a hub for clinical trials for mRNA cancer treatment and cancer vaccines to the global biopharmaceutical industry, as that may yield some benefits to Singaporean cancer patients.
Dr Janil Puthucheary: I thank Mr Leon Perera for his question. The process of conducting clinical trials is independent of the fact of mRNA vaccines. We have a number of platforms, processes and significant investments in developing the ability to do better and more clinical trials here in Singapore to act as a hub for both the patient selection as well as the information management and subsequent analysis of these trials.
All trials related to mRNA vaccines and cancer vaccines will be part of that approach.
Ministry of Health
14 February 2023