American healthcare firm MSD officially opened an $8 million centre yesterday that will focus on stimulating innovation through data mining as well as conduct cyber-security surveillance.
The centre will focus on collating and analysing large volumes of data to improve the company's operations in areas such as research and development and manufacturing.
MSD also hopes to develop mobile applications that help people live healthier lives, said executive vice-president Clark Golestani at a briefing.
Mr Golestani, who is also the firm's chief information officer, said such applications could help patients better follow their doctors' instructions on taking medication, for example.
"We see there is just such an explosion of devices. We have the Apple iWatch, Samsung; every day there's a new device. And the question becomes how can those be used by individuals to better their health and prevent chronic disease," he said.
"What those solutions are, we don't know yet, hopefully with the opening of the centre and the innovation, we'll be able to come up with solutions that help patients."
MSD opened two similar centres this year, in Prague and New Jersey. The Singapore facility has completed its "three-hub, global network that people can use to share ideas and best practices", Mr Golestani said.
He also noted why the initiative is important: "Probably one of the best-kept secrets is that the bio-pharmaceutical industry, many would argue, has the most complex information problems out of any industry on the planet.
"We've been doing complex information processing for decades, and in fact a lot of the advanced information-management techniques come from the pharmaceutical industry."
The Singapore centre will also house security specialists to prevent cyber attacks on the company's data.
Another feature is a "users' room" where a person can interact with one of the company's products while being monitored through cameras and other devices so improvements can be made.
The centre, which will employ 160 people by the end of the year, is looking for 30 to 50 advanced software engineers in areas such as mobile application programming and Web design.
MSD also said it plans to partner start-ups and universities to develop healthcare solutions.
The firm, which now has eight sites here, also said it would offer up to 20 internships over the next four years to students from local universities.
Mr Yeoh Keat Chuan, managing director of the Economic Development Board, attended the opening ceremony.