The Rise of Asia as a Destination of Biotech Investment and Opportunity

By Sangeeta Chakraborty, Ph.D.

Dr. Monica He, Senior Director, International Affairs, BIO moderated the session “Asian opportunities and collaboration” that featured distinguished panelists discussing the collaborative opportunities and business models in the pharma and biotech sector of Asia while also touching upon the impact of the pandemic on the future.

EDDC: Driving Drug Discovery and Development in Singapore and Beyond

With the emergence of more than 120 biotech companies as of 2020, the biopharma landscape of Singapore has expanded tremendously over the past two decades, creating indigenous opportunities for pharma research and innovation and attracting numerous public-private investments.

Damian O’Connell, CEO of Experimental Drug Development Centre (EDDC) in Singapore, started the session by stating how his organization fits perfectly into the growing biopharma ecosystem of Singapore. From collaborating with academic research institutions and local industries, and providing in-house expertise and platforms for drug discovery, preclinical and clinical efforts, to generating commercial value through out-licensing and spin-outs, EDDC has been pivotal in the growth of the biotech space within and beyond Singapore.

He stated that EDDC understands the local biomedical landscape and the regulatory processes, which further strengthens the organization’s capabilities in drug development and clinical trial areas. One of their recent success stories has been the molecule ETC-159, which was discovered through collaboration with Duke-NUS and is now in Phase 3 trials for colorectal cancers. Intending to incentivize large and small pharma companies to invest and manufacture drugs in Singapore, EDDC aims to promote the country’s biotech landscape.

 

Emerging Opportunities in Indo-Taiwan BioPharma Business Corridor post COVID

Telehealth, virtual care, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are going to be commonplace in the way healthcare industry functions, especially in light of the pandemic. Deployment of AI to collect and analyze patient data, deliver therapy, as well as enable diagnostic and therapeutic decision-making through telemedicine is going to be unparalleled in bringing affordable healthcare to populations who reside in remote areas.

Emphasizing the role of AI and smarter medicine in the post-COVID-19 era, and how India and Taiwan is perfectly poised to bring forth a digital transformation in healthcare and personalized medicine, Prof. Murali Muthuswamy Panchapagesa of the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE), foresees perfect partnership possibilities between both countries. He stated that with India’s exceptional computing capabilities and Taiwan’s stronghold in data sharing and AI innovation, it is possible to expand the collaborative scope to a multitude of other industries, including life sciences, biopharma, and Medtech. In fact, the two countries have already partnered through a Department of Science & Technology, India (DST) sponsored program that focuses on AI and machine learning.

 

The Path of Hong Kong towards an International Innovation Hub

A city with world-class infrastructure, stable economic and political environment, and great universities, Hong Kong, lies at the forefront of science and technology. Prof. Albert Cheung-Hoi Yu, Chairman of the Hong Kong Biotechnology Organization (HKBIO), shared his insights on Hong Kong’s potential to become an international innovation hub for biotech industries given how tremendously it’s biotech sector has grown over the past few years with more than 500 well-funded biotech projects, robust Intellectual property (IP) protection services, and a top-notch stock exchange that ensures uninterrupted capital flow.

The most exciting win for Hong Kong’s biotech sector is the annual HK$20 billion of financial support (under the Innovation and Technology Fund; ITF) from the government for promotion and facilitation of technology. Geographically positioned as the gateway to China and an understanding and accessibility to the Chinese market, Hong Kong is an ideal location for global partnership and talent aggregation.

 

Post COVID19: Opportunities and Challenges of Asian Collaboration 2020 Hub

Both world economy and healthcare have been immensely strained under the pressure of the Coronavirus crisis. As countries make a gradual recovery, what does the future look like for the biotech industry? What kind of challenges and opportunities would the industry face post-pandemic?

Answering these questions, Sirasak Teparkum, deputy CEO of Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Sciences (TCELS), started the session by discussing his organization’s role in Thailand’s COVID-19 task force. TCELS, a public organization under the ministry of higher education, science and innovation, developed a multitude of critical research projects aimed at prevention, diagnostics, and treatment of  COVID-19, generating over 4.8 billion Thai Baht in less than 3 months from collaborations across the country. Apart from R&D management and innovation that focuses on precision medicine, medical devices, and preclinical/clinical research, a big part of TCELS’ high throughput drug discovery platform is dedicated to screening natural compounds with therapeutic potential.

Along the same lines, they have recently found Fingerroot extract to be a promising candidate against COVID19. He stated that TCELS is part of Thailand’s collaborative work with Japan and Taiwan under the APAC Natural Product Drug Discovery Consortium (ANPDC) that aims to bring natural product drugs to the Asian market and conserve Thailand’s biodiversity. He also introduced Thailand’s first-ever initiative on human genome research: Genomics Thailand, a collaborative work to enable precision medicine for the Thai population covering a large number of therapeutic areas and offering a plethora of opportunities for both clinical research and big data analytics. He concluded that Thailand’s emerging R&D capabilities and strengths in health information technology would help Thailand grow into a major hub for biomedical and genomics research and innovation in South East Asia.

Editor: Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.

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