Japan opens first overseas medical R&D office in Singapore

Regional office will better link agency to global research, improve international collaboration

Japan's new agency to oversee medical research in the country will locate its first overseas office in Singapore. This will be followed by offices in London and Washington, DC.

These regional offices are to help the Agency for Medical Research and Development (Amed) to connect with medical research done around the world, with a view to collaboration, said Mr Hiroshi Nakamura, director of the Singapore office.

Amed was set up in April last year and has a budget of US$1.4 billion (S$1.9 billion) this financial year. It was set up to bring under one roof medical research done previously by various ministries and agencies.

Mr Nakamura said that there were sometimes disconnects between research and application as well as "gaps" in the diverse efforts that Amed hopes to overcome.

It comes under the purview of the Prime Minister's Office, and has about 1,000 ongoing projects, he said. Funding ranges from about $100,000 for small projects to more that $10 million for major ones.

The Singapore office is in charge of Asia and Oceania.

Aside from identifying and encouraging cooperative research, Mr Nakamura said his office will also share results from Japanese research projects.

The sort of research Amed is interested in includes drug discovery, medical devices, regenerative medicine, cancer, psychiatric and neurological disorders, genomic medicine, and emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Mr Lim Chuan Poh, chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), welcomed Amed's move.

He said: "There are meaningful synergies between Singapore and Japan as both countries have recognised the importance of leveraging research, innovation and enterprise for economic growth against the backdrop of a dynamic and challenging global environment.

"Both are also working together to address areas of mutual interest, such as the challenges associated with an ageing population."

In March, the two agencies agreed to strengthen cooperation in biomedical and scientific research.

Mr Lim said that, like A*Star, Amed plays an important role in "catalysing and integrating" research and in fostering partnerships between research institutes, academia and the private sector.

Having Amed here "will add to the diversity of our research and innovation ecosystem and pave the way for greater collaboration", he said.

The Amed office, which will be opened officially next week, is located in Science Park 1.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'Japan opens first overseas medical R&D office in S'pore'. Subscribe