A senior principal investigator with SICS, Professor Koh Woon Puay is also Assistant Dean for Faculty Development at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, lead investigator for the Healthy Longevity Translational Research Programme at NUS Medicine, and Director of the Clinician-Scientist Development Unit at NUS Medicine.
Being a population health scientist, her research interest and expertise is in unravelling the epidemiology of chronic diseases of importance to Singapore and the world at large, such as cancer, cardio-metabolic, musculoskeletal and neurodegenerative diseases. Being medically qualified in Singapore, and having had PhD training in experimental research and postdoctoral training in epidemiology, she seeks to integrate biology, medicine and epidemiology in etiological studies of the aforementioned chronic diseases.
Koh’s research incorporates her knowledge in clinical medicine and training in laboratory science with epidemiologic methods to unravel putative mechanistic pathways in disease etiology. Beyond establishing associations between exposures and risk of disease, her research uses molecular and genetic tools to identify modifiable factors (such as lifestyle factors) that could be applicable to disease prevention, or biomarkers (including but not limited to genetic markers) that could be developed for early detection or screening of disease. In addition to bringing benefit to the scientific community, she also aims to translate her research into public health outcomes by providing evidence for the foundation of public health education and policy in Singapore.
Since 2003, Koh has been the principal investigator of The Singapore Chinese Health Study. Together with local and overseas co-investigators, she has examined lifestyle and dietary factors associated with chronic diseases common among Singaporeans using this cohort, and has co-authored about 400 scientific papers in peer-reviewed international journals, including several noteworthy and novel scientific contributions of reports on dietary, genetic and lifestyle factors that are of importance to Asian populations. The Singapore Chinese Health Study is an example of world-class epidemiologic research that integrates rigorous prospective study design with cutting-edge biochemical measures that provide better information for causal inference. The study represents a unique constellation of strengths highlighting the importance of Singapore as a hub for biomedical research: a well-defined motivated study population leading to low non-response and nearly complete follow-up, strong expertise in epidemiology and biochemical measurements, and an Asian setting that importantly complements studies conducted in western countries.
For her groundbreaking research efforts, the Ministry of Health, Singapore awarded her the NMRC Clinician Scientist Award (Senior Investigator Category) for the years 2014 to 2019 and 2020 to 2025. In 2016, she received the Duke-NUS Medical School Dean’s Excellence Award 2016 for outstanding accomplishment in research.
Koh obtained her MBBS from the National University of Singapore and her PhD in Immunology from The University of Sydney.