Cre­at­ing ecosys­tem for growth of health­care in­dus­try

Sin­ga­pore has es­tab­lished it­self as a lead­ing coun­try in biomed­i­cal sciences man­u­fac­tur­ing and R&D ac­tiv­i­ties. In ad­di­tion, it also pro­vides nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties for pri­vate en­ter­prise to part­ner with its pub­lic-sec­tor re­search in­sti­tutes, clin­i­cal-rese

BioSpectrum (Asia) - - Bio Content -

While Sin­ga­pore al­ready has one of the most ef­fi­cient health­care sys­tems glob­ally (ranked sec­ond by Bloomberg Health­care Ef­fi­ciency In­dex 2016), its in­te­grated ap­proach to­wards the biopharma busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment con­tin­ues to fur­ther strengthen its po­si­tion in an oth­er­wise dif­fi­cult time for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and biotech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies. As or­ga­ni­za­tions across the spec­trum strug­gle on mul­ti­ple fronts – de­clin­ing R&D, pres­sures on costs and mar­gins, height­ened com­pe­ti­tion – they are in­creas­ingly get­ting in­ter­ested in lev­er­ag­ing Sin­ga­pore’s en­abling and ef­fi­cient ecosys­tem to fur­ther their pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­itabil­ity. This is quite ev­i­dent from the fact that more than 30 lead­ing com­pa­nies (in­clud­ing the likes of Glax­oSmithK­line, No­var­tis, Am­gen and Takeda) have cho­sen Sin­ga­pore as their base for Asia Pacific (APAC) op­er­a­tions and are us­ing the city-state’s en­abling fa­cil­i­ties to drive in­no­va­tion, ef­fi­ciency and busi­ness growth.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by re­search and con­sult­ing firm Glob­alData (pub­lished in June 2017), the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mar­ket in Sin­ga­pore is set to rise from S$1.28 bil­lion in 2017 to around S$1.6 bil­lion in 2021, and will first ex­ceed the S$1.35 bil­lion mark in 2019.

Sin­ga­pore’s ap­proach to at­tract­ing sec­toral in­vest­ment sec­tor is multi-pronged, with a (1) fo­cus on govern­ment ini­tia­tives and friendly poli­cies, (2) en­abling pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships, (3) mak­ing it easy for Sin­ga­pore to be­come a pre­ferred man­u­fac­tur­ing base, (4) cre­at­ing ded­i­cated in­fra­struc­ture to pro­vide syn­er­gies and economies of scale, and (5) pro­vid­ing nec­es­sary in­cen­tives and im­pe­tus on dig­i­tal health and med-tech. Ac­cord­ing to EDB, this has in turn helped the sec­tor cat­a­pult it­self into a sig­nif­i­cant and grow­ing con­trib­u­tor to Sin­ga­pore’s econ­omy – about 3.5 to 4.0 per­cent­age of GDP is al­ready at­trib­ut­able to it, amount­ing to roughly around S$ 27 bil­lion (of which, ap­prox. ~S$16 bil­lion is from pharma and ~$S11 bil­lion from med-tech). This is not a job­less growth ei­ther, as it has re­sulted in cre­at­ing more than 18,000 jobs in re­cent years (with an ap­prox. split of 2:1 be­tween pharma and med-tech).

Pub­lic health­care ex­pen­di­ture in Sin­ga­pore is an equally im­por­tant area that de­serves a men­tion, as it pro­vides un­fore­seen chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for the busi­ness. Though the city-state has main­tained a mod­est over­all spend­ing in this area, a sig­nif­i­cant ex­pense to­wards costly health­care fa­cil­i­ties is still pri­vately spent.

Pre­ferred Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Man­u­fac­tur­ing Base

Process re­search and de­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties in Sin­ga­pore are help­ing com­pa­nies in­no­vate and im­prove

bi­o­log­ics as well as small-mol­e­cule pro­duc­tion. Fur­ther, with the ob­jec­tive of get­ting in­dus­try and re­search to col­lab­o­rate, Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil (BMAC) – a think-tank com­pris­ing of mem­bers from lo­cal phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal plant site di­rec­tors and govern­ment agen­cies, is com­mit­ted to mak­ing Sin­ga­pore be­come a highly-skilled man­u­fac­tur­ing econ­omy with a proven record of qual­ity and process de­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Other ex­am­ples in­clude Sin­ga­pore’s In­sti­tute of Chem­i­cal and En­gi­neer­ing Ser­vices (ICES) open­ing a pi­lot-scale lab­o­ra­tory fa­cil­ity to aide pharma com­pa­nies in process de­vel­op­ment and im­prove­ment.

All th­ese ef­forts have yielded re­sults, with all phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties here re­ceiv­ing val­i­da­tion from in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tors such as the US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) and the Euro­pean Medicines Agency (EMEA). A world­class phys­i­cal and reg­u­la­tory in­fra­struc­ture, ex­cel­lent global con­nec­tiv­ity and a highly skilled hu­man re­source, there­fore gives Sin­ga­pore a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

This en­abling ecosys­tem has helped Sin­ga­pore be­come a lead­ing choice of bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies that are set­ting up their global man­u­fac­tur­ing base in Sin­ga­pore. Firms like Ab­bott, Glax­oSmithK­line, Lonza, MSD, No­var­tis, Pfizer, Am­gen and SanofiAven­tis – just to name a few – have multi-pur­pose plants that have the ca­pa­bil­ity of man­u­fac­tur­ing a range of ac­tive phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ingredients (APIs), bi­o­log­ics and nu­tri­tion­als. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, it has steered a num­ber of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and biotech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies to di­ver­sify their op­er­a­tions over time and led to a fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties other than APIs. The coun­try has made sig­nif­i­cant in­roads in ar­eas such as bi­o­log­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing: with Bax­ter, Lonza, Glax­oSmithK­line and Roche an­nounc­ing cap­i­tal in­vest­ments for set­ting up bi­o­log­ics fa­cil­i­ties in the range of S$2.7 bil­lion.

Over the last few years, there are some ex­am­ples of grow­ing in­ter­est and in­vest­ment in this area:

● Glax­oSmithK­line (GSK) pro­vided ~S$8 mil­lion in re­search fund­ing to 14 prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tors un­der GSK-Sin­ga­pore Part­ner­ship for Green and Sus­tain­able Man­u­fac­tur­ing (GSM). This is a sec­ond tranche of such in­vest­ment that has pro­vi­sioned S$33 mil­lion of funds to­tally. The fo­cus of this grant is to con­duct re­search in ar­eas re­lated to chem­i­cal-, phys­i­cal- and bio­trans­for­ma­tions, fa­cil­i­ties and sup­ply chain, equip­ment and tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions, life cy­cle as­sess­ment, and sol­vent se­lec­tion and op­ti­mi­sa­tion, with the ob­jec­tive to de­velop in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions that im­prove op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency and vi­a­bil­ity of global op­er­a­tions.

● Ab­bott made its first ma­jor cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in Asia – also its largest ever in­vest­ment in nutri­tional space, with its S$450 mil­lion nutri­tional pow­der sta­teof-the-art man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Sin­ga­pore. This aims to ad­dress the in­creas­ing re­gional de­mand for nutri­tional prod­ucts.

● In the area of bi­o­log­ics, Am­gen is amongst the lat­est in Sin­ga­pore, and its fa­cil­ity is truly “next-gen”: uti­liz­ing sin­gle-use, dis­pos­able tech­nolo­gies. This also helps make its foot­print sig­nif­i­cantly smaller (~75%) than con­ven­tional plants, while main­tain­ing sim­i­lar out­put lev­els.

● Lonza in­vested CHF 10 mil­lion to ex­pand its bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal de­vel­op­ment ser­vices plat­form in Sin­ga­pore. This is an ex­pan­sion to its bi­o­log­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity, aug­ment­ing it with 1858 sq. mt. of state-of-the-art lab­o­ra­tory space and as­so­ci­ated equip­ment, which will seam­lessly in­te­grate to en­able a full range of front-to-back ser­vice of­fer­ing: from de­vel­op­ment through pre-clin­i­cal and small-scale man­u­fac­tur­ing, to large-scale com­mer­cial sup­ply. Fo­cus of this plat­form is to pro­vide sup­port to ar­eas such as cell line con­struc­tion, up­stream and down­stream process de­vel­op­ment, and a wide range of an­a­lyt­i­cal ser­vices.

● Ab­bVie si­mul­ta­ne­ously an­nounced re­gard­ing two new man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties: one each for small­molecule APIs and bi­o­log­ics, aim­ing to build ca­pa­bil­i­ties for both small and large mol­e­cules.

In re­cent years, Sin­ga­pore has seen in­vest­ments in a wide range of ca­pa­bil­i­ties, such as: bio­pro­cess de­vel­op­ment, next-gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties and cell ther­a­pies. It also re­mains com­mit­ted to­wards de­vel­op­ing a skilled work­force that is ready for fu­ture chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties in biotech­nol­ogy and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing. The sec­tor is sup­ported by a grow­ing base of ~5,000 skilled en­gi­neers and tech­ni­cians, and more than 300,000 skilled em­ploy­ees in re­lated sec­tors such as chem­i­cals, elec­tron­ics, en­gi­neer­ing. Al­ready rep­re­sent­ing a thriv­ing sec­tor of Sin­ga­pore’s eco­nomic growth, in­dus­try is also a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to GDP and job cre­ation.

Ac­cord­ing to Data­mon­i­tor 2012, Sin­ga­pore was the third fastest grow­ing na­tion glob­ally in the ex­port of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts from 2000 to 2010. The tra­jec­tory con­tin­ues up­wards, thanks to the govern­ment’s fo­cus to make Sin­ga­pore a des­ti­na­tion of choice for the sec­tor.

Pub­lic Pri­vate Col­lab­o­ra­tion: A cor­ner­stone for Health­care Ad­vance­ment

Sin­ga­pore has es­tab­lished it­self as a lead­ing coun­try in biomed­i­cal sciences man­u­fac­tur­ing and R&D ac­tiv­i­ties. In ad­di­tion, it also pro­vides nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties for pri­vate en­ter­prise to part­ner with its pub­lic-sec­tor re­search in­sti­tutes, clin­i­cal-re­search units in hos­pi­tals as well as in­ter­na­tional re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Sin­ga­pore’s med­i­cal ad­vance­ments pro­pelled by Govern­ment’s strong com­mit­ment to ba­sic and clin­i­cal R&D, is fur­ther demon­strated by the es­tab­lish­ment of ded­i­cated state-of-the-art in­fra­struc­ture, which co-lo­cates pub­lic sec­tor re­search in­sti­tutes with cor­po­rate labs. Biopo­lis, at One-North, is a pi­o­neer­ing ef­fort to fa­cil­i­tate such col­lab­o­ra­tion in the life-sciences and bio-med­i­cal space. Sim­i­larly, Tuas Biomed­i­cal Park (TBP) is a 360-hectare stretch of ready-pre­pared and specif­i­cally-zoned land set aside by the govern­ment for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and bi­o­log­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing.

En­cour­aged by govern­ment fo­cus, a num­ber of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies have taken the lead in lev­er­ag­ing this op­por­tu­nity by mak­ing in­vest­ments or fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments to­wards es­tab­lish­ing and grow­ing their cen­tres of excellence for re­search and de­vel­op­ment. Fur­ther, with an ob­jec­tive to fa­cil­i­tate re­search and in­no­va­tion in the sec­tor, govern­ment has started a num­ber of pro­grammes that are fo­cussed at nur­tur­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween sci­en­tists and in­dus­try ex­perts, so as to trans­late re­search into im­ple­mentable so­lu­tions. Some ini­tia­tives to fa­cil­i­tate this process in­clude:

● Sin­ga­pore Trans­la­tional Re­search (STaR) In­ves­ti­ga­tor Award re­cruits lead­ing clin­i­cian sci­en­tists for pur­su­ing trans­la­tional and clin­i­cal re­search

● Clin­i­cian Sci­en­tist Award (CSA) pro­vides fi­nan­cial sup­port to med­i­cal re­searchers

● Trans­la­tional & Clin­i­cal Re­search (TCR) Flag­ship Pro­gramme (with a 5-year bud­get of up to S$ 25 mil­lion) pro­vides an av­enue for col­lab­o­ra­tive sci­en­tific prob­lem solv­ing and trans­lat­ing aca­demic re­search into health­care so­lu­tions for pa­tients

● Com­pet­i­tive Re­search Pro­gramme (CRP) (with a 3-to-5-year bud­get of up to S$10 mil­lion) pro­vides fund­ing across a spec­trum broad of re­search ideas, in­clud­ing sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives that help iden­tify new strate­gic re­search ar­eas that have the po­ten­tial to strengthen the core ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the sec­tor

● Health Ser­vices Re­search Com­pet­i­tive Re­search Grants (HSR-CRGs) – a max­i­mum of S$ 1 mil­lion pro­vided by Min­istry of Health to el­i­gi­ble pub­lic health­care and aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions, pro­motes re­search and its trans­la­tion into pol­icy and prac­tice

Ad­vances in Dig­i­tal Health­care So­lu­tions

Fur­ther build­ing on the con­ven­tional Sin­ga­porean skill-set, which al­ready has a strong and ca­pa­ble pres­ence in In­fo­comms and IT sec­tors - fo­cus is to work with health­care in­dus­try into trans­lat­ing th­ese com­pe­ten­cies into ap­pli­ca­tions within health­care. Strat­egy also greatly aligns with Sin­ga­pore’s vi­sion of be­com­ing a Smart Na­tion. Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Board (EDB), along with its part­ner­ships, as well as other sim­i­lar in­sti­tu­tions with a re­lated man­date, help meet the ob­jec­tives of cre­at­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties and part­ner­ships, as well as open­ing up new pos­si­bil­i­ties to en­hance the way we live, work, play, and in­ter­act.

The Global IT Hub in Sin­ga­pore, setup by MSD, apart from fo­cussing on soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing - puts a lot of im­pe­tus on emerg­ing and in­creas­ingly rel­e­vant ar­eas of tech­nol­ogy such as data science and cy­ber se­cu­rity. More re­cently, and with an aim to har­ness tech­nol­ogy for health­care – it has also ex­panded its com­pe­ten­cies into ar­eas such as dig­i­tal health, bioin­for­mat­ics and cog­ni­tive com­put­ing. Sim­i­larly, Merck (MSD) has also in­vested in a global in­no­va­tion hub in Sin­ga­pore, fo­cused on har­ness­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies. Apart from core IT op­er­a­tions, it also sup­ports skill de­vel­op­ment that are tra­di­tion­ally non-ex­is­tent in health­care com­pa­nies, but are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing im­por­tant.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, there is a grow­ing in­ter­est in the in­dus­try to in­vest in ca­pa­bil­i­ties that are dig­i­tal in na­ture and har­ness data driven an­a­lyt­ics to pro­vide in­sight­ful so­lu­tions for ad­dress­ing real-world health­care prob­lems. From Sin­ga­porean per­spec­tive, it is of great essence to cre­ate an ecosys­tem the en­ables med-tech com­pa­nies to build such ca­pa­bil­i­ties and plat­forms, which fur­ther the ad­vance­ment and growth of health­care in­dus­try.

Priyanka Bajpai priyanka.bajpai@mmac­tiv.com

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