New alliance to steer efforts in medtech

   Its focus will be on in-vitro diagnostics, which involves the development of test kits to help detect and contain the spread of diseases like Covid-19.
Its focus will be on in-vitro diagnostics, which involves the development of test kits to help detect and contain the spread of diseases like Covid-19.PHOTO: ST FILE

The medical technology sector will feature prominently in Singapore's next lap of growth, with a new industry-led coalition set up to lead the charge.

Its focus will be on in-vitro diagnostics, which involves the development of test kits to help detect and contain the spread of diseases like Covid-19.

The move builds on Singapore's strengths in manufacturing, as well as research and development, said Dr Loo Choon Yong, a member of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce in charge of charting the country's economic recovery.

"Healthcare manufacturing commands a premium because safety is big," he added. "You cannot be exporting healthcare products without very high exacting standards; people won't buy otherwise."

The executive chairman of Raffles Medical Group made the point when he spoke yesterday about the establishment of the industry-led alliance on medtech at a press conference. Dr Loo is one of the co-leaders of this latest alliance.

At the press conference, the task force members also spoke of the progress made by each of the seven Alliances for Action set up in June. The groups focus on potential growth areas such as robotics and environmental sustainability.

The task force unveiled six new members, raising its membership count to 23. One of them, Univac Group president and chief executive officer Amos Leong, also co-leads the medtech alliance.

The task force is exploring setting up another coalition to work on forging business partnerships in South-east Asia, a Ministry of Trade and Industry statement said yesterday.

Task force co-chair Tan Chong Meng, PSA International's group CEO, said: "We are just now starting to consolidate the possibilities within the top two or three markets."

The aim, he added, is to be successful in a few markets before scaling up the business.

Singapore's focus on medtech builds on its success in rapid testing, contact tracing and isolating Covid-19 cases during the pandemic, the ministry said.

Dr Fidah Alsagoff, a task force member and co-lead of the medtech alliance, said in-vitro diagnostics are a "high value" part of medical treatment.

Singapore has all the capabilities needed to rapidly respond in this field, from home-grown test kits to a responsive regulatory authority, he added.

Dr Loo estimated that the sector could create 4,000 jobs.

Dr Alsagoff, who is with Temasek International, said the technology can also be applied in areas such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases. "Because there is scale, it can have the potential to become a lucrative engine for growth after Covid."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2020, with the headline 'New alliance to steer efforts in medtech'. Print Edition | Subscribe