Country Report: Singapore - Pharmaceutical Executive


Country Report: Singapore
The Little Red Dot That Did

Pharmaceutical Executive


As part of the mushrooming BMS, Singapore has been promoting the medical technology industry. Medtech's shorter gestation period and faster growth than the pharma industry has proven increasingly attractive.

"Having catalyzed and built capabilities in the private sector R&D, Bio*One now focuses on later stage companies with products," says EDBI's President and CEO, Swee Yeok Chu, citing medical device companies that are looking to expand into Asian markets as prime examples.

Money Where the Mouth is: Are Asians Investing in Start-ups?
According to the EDB, the medtech industry almost tripled its manufacturing output from SGD 1.5 billion (USD 1.2 billion) in 2000 to about SGD 4.3 billion (USD 3.5 billion) in 2011. The 2015 target is SGD 5 billion (USD 4.1 billion).

Profitability is spurred by big goals: medtechs aim to propel innovation, contribute to providing more patient-centric solutions and, according to the president of Life Technologies for Asia Pacific and Japan, Mark Smedley, to democratize science.

"We believe tools are what fundamentally drive innovation," says Smedley, who compares their "Ion Proton," genome sequencer to Galileo's telescope. It took a tool, the telescope, to transform Copernicus' theory into science.

Asia: Medtech Mecca

Thomas Dunlap, President & CEO HOYA Surgical Optics
The medtech mantra is converting growth into opportunity. Growth for the medtech industry in Asia is a given, according to Bhuller. China shows 20 to 22 percent annual growth while other Asian countries are growing between 10 to 14 percent.

"The challenge is how" fast you can restore your basic operations that can support sustainable growth," says GE's Healthcare president of ASEAN, David Utama.

To build the foundation and keep in line with access, one of the three pillars of its "Healthymagination" campaign, GE has developed a novel approach to alleviate financing of their products.

Made in Singapore Brand
"Normally the challenge for healthcare practitioners is not cash flow, because they have a good base of operations. The challenge is buying for the first time," explains Utama, who has facilitated working with one of the largest public banks in Indonesia to issue credit cards with low interest options.

For companies like Becton Dickinson (BD), Indonesia is the fastest growing market in the ASEAN region. May Kwai Cheong, BD's Vice President of Central Asia, believes that "as the government and even the private sector increase access, there will always be growth opportunities."

Companies are scrambling to deflate the rising cost pressure that this broadening access surge will create. Cheong says that in order to continue growth, their main challenge will be coming up with "market appropriate products" for the emerging markets, which BD is doing in stages.

LKF Plant in China
"As the region is so diverse, we have a different strategy for each market," says Cheong. "For every country that we consider as high potential, we work with consultants and then internally develop a strategic plan for the respective market, which takes us around 3 to 6 months to design the plan before we execute it."

Medtechs have had another recent insight—retrofitting products from the US or Europe does not work. This is true particularly in emerging markets where, according to Kulbir Sandhu, the executive director of Greatbatch's future Active Implantable Medical Device (AIMD) R&D Center, "patient psychology, clinical practise, price point, regulatory compliance and reimbursements" are all different.

With its first foray into Asia Pacific and also Singapore's first AIMD center, Greatbatch, a US-based component supplier for implantables, will be "looking for the clinical opportunity, assessing and understanding what the clinical need is, and based on that we will define and design products (cardiovascular, neuromodulation and orthopaedics) out of this new R&D center," Sandhu says.


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