Country Report: Singapore - Pharmaceutical Executive


Country Report: Singapore
The Little Red Dot That Did

Pharmaceutical Executive

Nurturing the Niche Players

Mun Sum Leong, Managing Director, LKF
Singapore has further positioned itself to focus on producing technologies in select areas such as ophthalmologic, cardiovascular and orthopedics.

Niche players like AB Sciex and HOYA Surgical Optics, a global manufacturer of intraocular lenses (IOLs) that is part of HOYA corporation, are using Singapore as a marketing tool.

Many doctors, especially from Asia, come to visit HOYA Surgical Optics' manufacturing plant. "The visitors are really fascinated to understand what it takes to manufacture an intraocular lens, which look simple, but there is an incredible amount of precision technology involved," says Thomas Dunlap, CEO of HOYA Surgical Optics.

Carl Firth, CEO ASLAN
Aside from their manufacturing and commercial footprint, AB Sciex opened the APAC Regional Application & Training Center in the Biopolis in 2012, which will function as a training center and as a lab to promote the capabilities of their mass spectrometry tools. Customers who come to the center not only learn how to use the tools, but can also bring their own samples to test solutions.

Many of these companies believe that spreading themselves thin can compromise prime positioning.

"Unlike our main competitors, our singular focus frees us of conflicting priorities and distracting demands outside of our core business," says Dunlap, who posits this will continue their double-digit growth.

"We will take a very strong position in the global market place, since we are aiming to be positioned amongst the top two companies in our core intraocular lens business," Dunlap says.

Interview with Joseph Lam, managing director of Beacons Pharmaceuticals
TriReme Medical produced Singapore's first FDA approved implantable device, "Chocolate," a PTA balloon catheter. The device was invented and designed here, in collaboration with their team in Silicon Valley.

Eitan Konstantino, president and CEO of TriReme Medical, who also runs Quattro Vascular, an R&D start- up, calls Singapore a "sweet spot of quality and cost." Although manufacturing in Singapore is more expensive than in neighboring countries, Konstantino says that he is able to reduce costs by 75 percent as compared to California.

Like big pharma, medtechs are also tapping into Singapore's crème de la crème talent.

"Singapore has an amazing talent base that in our niche—mass spectrometry (MS)—is really appreciated, since it is not easy to explain how MS works and here we find talent that learns it at a very fast speed, who are simultaneously very productive and efficient," says Jason Peng, vice president of global operations for AB Sciex.

In spite of the industry's manpower base more than doubling from about 4,000 to 9,000 in the last decade, executives agree that more can be done to foster indigenous talent.

"Singapore could improve in sustainability, by creating a home-grown research business, since we cannot depend on global leaders to do high-level research," says Peng. He insists that translating ideas into products will depend largely on local talent.


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