Government reiterates research funding commitment to science institutes

SINGAPORE - As the Government plans for the next five-year funding cycle for science institutes, it has assured academics that it remains committed to investing in research and development.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology's 30th anniversary on Friday evening: "Biomedical sciences will continue to be a significant part of Singapore's R&D efforts."

However, investments will also take into account major shifts taking place in the global biomedical sciences sector, with more industry collaborations on the cards.

"Companies in the pharmaceutical industry are facing a confluence of challenging market conditions, lower R&D productivity," Dr Teo said.

He added that a "patent cliff" - when a company's drug patent has expired and it experiences a drop in revenues - has also resulted in some pharmaceutical companies doing away with their internal R&D departments.

To accelerate drug discovery, many are looking to collaborate with external partners, including science institutes.

"We will therefore continue to sharpen our biomedical sciences capabilities to support and complement the industry," Dr Teo said.

He was speaking to about 200 scientists, biomedical industry players and government representatives who gathered at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to celebrate the achievements of Singapore's pioneering institute.

They included creating a life-saving Sars diagnostic kit in 2003 and producing an ear infection drug, which this year became the first Singapore-produced drug to win prestigious US Food and Drug Administration approval.