According to Lin Hui Tham, consultant of Healthcare Asia Pacific at Frost & Sullivan, the boost in Malaysia's pharma's industry is being imparted by the increasing numbers of pharmaceutical manufacturers that have sought to outsource to or in-license their operations from the country. After already familiarising themselves with the region, it is becoming a natural progression for these pharma firms to begin outsourcing some of their clinical work to contract research organisations (CROs) within Malaysia also, which can offer cost-competitive sites. According to Lin Hui, the opportunity for healthcare companies venturing into Malaysia "looks bright". Within Asia, the country's healthcare growth spending rate is fifth behind The Philippines, India, South Korea, and China, however, in comparison to these four other countries, Malaysia's population of 25m is considered small in size. This reflects the trend of Malaysians towards a healthy lifestyle, said Lin Hui, "hence this opens big opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to gear up their manufacturing in order to meet the increasing demands of healthcare products".
Frost & Sullivan estimates that by 2013, the Malaysian pharma industry will be valued at about $1800m, growing at an annual rate of 10.5 per cent. "Malaysia's pharmaceutical industry has become increasingly reputable", said Lin Hui, adding that it is now mainly dominated by multinational companies. The Malaysian government has played a big role in providing initiatives to the pharmaceutical industry. Grants and financing schemes have been offered to support R&D initiatives, and since the country's increase in export value it has become a member of the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PICS). The country has also recently established the Penang Science Park at Bukit Minyak, as a push by the government to develop the country's biotechnology sector.
The new science park's first tenant is a preclinical CRO - the first of its kind in Malaysia - and is part-funded by a UK venture capital fund. Called Progenix, the CRO is offering toxicology services to the global biopharma market and houses a range of mammalian species for the purpose, from mice through to primates. According to the firm, it has a particular area of expertise in inhalation toxicology. Lin Hui pointed to the country's biotech industry as one of several market opportunities that presently exist in Malaysia for the pharmaceutical industry. The biotechnology industry is expanding at an "exciting rate," she said and the biogeneric industry, which is "relatively unexplored", is estimated to grow at an annual average of more than $16bn by 2011.
"Its future market trends are shifting towards generics consumption as well as biotech and specialist driven therapy".