In addition to mobile health opportunities in the United States, tremendous potential for growth exists throughout the world, including in Southeast Asia. Singapore in particular is working to become a leader in healthcare innovation. It welcomes innovators and companies from around the world to join its push to improve healthcare delivery and technology.
The Biopolis of Asia
Singapore's Economic Development Board has declared that "Singapore's vision is to be the Biopolis of Asia, a leading international biomedical sciences cluster." The country is devoting significant effort and resources toward promoting innovation throughout the medical sphere—whether in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology or healthcare delivery. It is now home to more than 30 medical technology companies and serves as the regional headquarters for eight of the world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies and all of the world's top 10 medical technology companies.
In the medical technology arena, companies with a presence in Singapore include Becton, Dickinson and Company; Alcon; Baxter International; Medtronic; and Siemens Medical Instruments. In the pharmaceutical industry, companies with Singapore-based activities include Merck, Bayer Healthcare, Roche, and GlaxoSmithKline. Other companies—such as Hill-Rom, Biotronik, Hoya Surgical Optics, Life Technologies, Pfizer, and Lonza—have also begun moving to Singapore.
Healthcare-related research and development is centered in Singapore's Biopolis. This hub provides state-of-the-art facilities for private-sector research and development alongside public institutions and hospitals. Its proximity to a public hospital and medical school fosters testing of new medical devices and technology. In particular, Singapore is pushing new developments in the following areas:
Aging – allowing the elderly to age at home by reducing the need for institutional care, while improving the quality and safety of institutional care when it is needed;
Disease – improving prevention, screening, treatment, monitoring and rehabilitation for infectious and non-infectious diseases; and
Healthcare Delivery – reducing healthcare costs, while improving outcomes, safety and efficiency of delivery.
With a deep culture of innovation, Singapore has established several platforms and organizations to support advances in healthcare-related industries. For example, the new Biomedical Sciences Accelerator Programme works to encourage and fund medical technology startup companies, and additional funds are devoted to supporting other biotech companies. The Health and Wellness Programme Office, a partnership between the Economic Development Board and the Ministry of Health, fosters collaboration among various companies in the healthcare industry to aid in the development and testing of new products. The Biomedical Sciences Industry Partnership Office matches "companies' R&D needs, to expertise in Singapore's research hospitals, as well as academic and public research institutions."
Foreigners who are interested in coming to Singapore to develop, test, produce and/or market new products are helped by favorable immigration programs. Singapore's EntrePass allows entrepreneurs and their immediate families to live in Singapore for two years after submitting a "sound business proposal." Furthermore, according to the Economic Development Board, "It takes 15 minutes to register a business online, three to six weeks to receive approval for clinical trials, and 24 to 36 months for a manufacturing facility to be operational." In addition, companies in Singapore have experience in complying with IP protection regulations and FDA regulatory requirements.
Michelle Ranello is a summer associate in the New York office of Duane Morris LLP.
June 24, 2014