Nurturing the Niche Players
Singapore has further positioned itself to focus on producing technologies in select areas such as ophthalmologic, cardiovascular
Mun Sum Leong, Managing Director, LKF
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.
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
Carl Firth, CEO ASLAN
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.
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.
Interview with Joseph Lam, managing director of Beacons Pharmaceuticals
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.