The beginnings of the Duke-NUS medical school can be traced to 2000, when Singapore launched an ambitious Biomedical Sciences Initiative designed to make the country the biomedical hub of Asia, and to attract both research and health sector manufacturing capabilities to Singapore.
In the Initiative, the government planned to spend more than S$3 billion over five years to accelerate development in the biomedical sciences. It offered incentives to attract companies to Singapore, and was funding research institutes devoted to genomics, bioinformatics, bioengineering, nanotechnology, molecular and cell biology, and cancer therapies.
In 2001, a Medical Education Review Panel chaired by Lord Oxburgh of England evaluated the plan and recommended that Singapore establish a graduate medical school (Duke-NUS) to produce the highly trained medical leaders needed to support the Biomedical Sciences Initiative.
Duke-NUS is intended to complement the National University of Singapore's existing undergraduate medical school, based on the British model of medical education, in which students enter medical school after completing their Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level examinations (or equivalent) and then pursue a five-year curriculum towards a medical degree.