Unlock new markets through open innovation

Ideas can seed and germinate with a single company, but for them to take flight, sometimes you need to collaborate with others. IPI Singapore brings together small and medium-sized enterprises and technology providers to collaborate, maximising their potential to innovate and unlock more opportunities for success. Such partnerships help accelerate the commercialisation of emerging technologies, seed licensing opportunities and foster entrance into new markets.

Easy meals for dysphagia patients

One of the growing health concerns of a rapidly ageing society like Singapore is dysphagia, a condition that makes swallowing difficult. 

It affects up to 68 per cent of elderly nursing home residents, and up to 64 per cent of patients after stroke, according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Not only does dysphagia affect about six in 10 stroke patients, it is also common among people with dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

To ease this problem during mealtimes, Changi General Hospital (CGH) developed ready-to-eat meals specially designed for dysphagia patients.

The team, led by CGH’s Deputy Director and Head, Dietetic and Food Services, Mrs Magdalin Cheong, started by looking at ways to modify the texture of food, the size of food particles, and the thickness of fluids to ensure patients could swallow them without choking.

A study was also done to assess how patients could receive sufficient nutrients from the meals, since dysphagia often results in malnutrition and dehydration.

“We also wanted to make sure the meals were appealing and delicious,” says Mrs Cheong.

After getting feedback on their patients’ preferences, her team decided on 14 local dishes for the final menu that includes seafood otak, steamed dim sum chicken and poached fish with tarragon sauce. Spices and strong-tasting ingredients such as chilli and ginseng are used to enhance the taste of the food.

A delicious array of ready-to-eat meals for patients with dysphagia at CGH.

Strategic collaboration

While CGH developed the in-house technology, the team was keen to find a partner who could help it launch the specially-created meals to a wider market.

The opportunity for collaboration came at premier technology-industry brokerage event TechInnovation 2015, when CGH was introduced by the National Health Innovation Centre (NHIC) to local food company Health Food Matters (HFM).

As a small- and medium-sized enterprise specialising in food products for people with special nutrition needs, HFM was well-positioned to produce, market and distribute the ready-made meals. Furthermore, the firm already had a 15,000 sq ft, halal-certified factory that could produce up to 8,000 meals a day.

From left: Mrs Magdalin Cheong, Deputy Director and Head, Dietetic and Food Services Department, Changi General Hospital; Ms Lim Lee Nor, Group CFO Eastern Health Alliance and CFO Changi General Hospital; Dr Lee Chien Earn, CEO, Changi General Hospital and Group CEO, Eastern Health Alliance; Mr Tan Soo Sam, CEO, Health Food Matters; Ms Grace Gan, VP Business, Health Food Matters and Mr Teo Cher Hwa, Director, National Health Innovation Centre (NHIC). PHOTO: IPI

With IPI’s and NHIC’s facilitation, CGH and HFM signed a licensing agreement in September.

Under the agreement, CGH provides recipes and formulas for its meals to HFM, while the latter produces, markets and distributes the ready-to-eat meals in Singapore and other countries such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Says NHIC’s director Mr Teo Cher Hwa: “The partnership between CGH and HFM represents the successful push to develop healthcare innovations that improve healthcare delivery and patient care in the face of Singapore’s greying population.

“We are glad to have supported this journey to commercialisation, which will ultimately improve the quality of life for people with dysphagia, as well as their caregivers.”

Starting from mid-September this year, the meals will be available for purchase on the company’s website.

Says HFM’s co-founder Ms Grace Gan: “The aim is to help patients rediscover the joy of eating as many of those with swallowing difficulties often find current food options rather bland.

“Licensing technology that’s already been test-bedded on a large scale across multiple healthcare settings gives us confidence that our final product will be well-accepted by the market.”

Brought to you by IPI Singapore