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Singapore's Formidable Biotechnology Industry

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

It may have recently been beset by economic turbulence buffeting the world economy, but Singapore is forging ahead — most especially in biotechnology and biomedical sciences.

At a speech delivered at the second International Conference on Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, Minister of State for Trade & Industry and Manpower Lee Yi Shyan said Singapore has established a research network that incorporated the country’s A*STAR — the Agency for Science, Technology and Research — the academic medical centers co-locating with medical schools and universities and public hospitals. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, the Minister said, could elect to work with the network in order to improve drug development via clinical and translational research.

Singapore’s efforts to put together a functional and effective biotechnology industry have already borne fruit. More than 4,300 researchers have set up shop in Singapore and are currently undertaking biomedical research in both the public and private sectors. Moreover, medical firm Roche announced in January that it is to set up the Hub for Translational Medicine and will work with Singapore’s medical and research institutes. A*STAR is collaborating with the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, based in Boston, which points out particular problems and attempts to see if researchers and engineers can solve them.

Other research developments that took place earlier in 2010 have served to further boost Singapore’s reputation as a biomedical research hub. For example, in June 2010, as detailed by the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s oldest and largest university, announced that it will set up a research center in Singapore that would focus on crafting cutting-edge inflammatory disease therapies for sufferers in the region, and which would leverage Singaporean expertise and talent by working comclosely with scientists from the research community. Secondly, the Global Asia Institute of the National University of Singapore launched a set of multi-disciplinary research projects, including one touching on public health — Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and its risk to Asians in particular. Thirdly, encouraging research results from cancer research by a Singapore-led trials group, the Asia-Pacific Hepatocellular Carcinoma Trials Group, was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology top-level conference.

Minister Lee added that the country is continuing to improve its capacity to meet the region’s burgeoning healthcare needs by training medical device innovators. The Medtech IDEAS program, which is supported by the Economic Development Board, focuses on the training and preparation of multi-disciplinary engineers. In addition, said the Minister, Nanyang Technological University has recently opened a new School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering to help grow local and regional research talent.

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