Singapore has been investing heavily in its biomedical sciences industry over the last five years, building up infrastructure, establishing cutting-edge technologies and developing manpower under its biomedical science (BMS) initiative.
The first phase of this initiative has finished and the second phase is now underway, with S$1.4bn earmarked for the purpose.
"The focus of this will be to set up infrastructure for translational research, such as imaging and animal testing facilities, as well as training clinical scientists and putting in place 'lab to clinic' research programmes in oncology, cardiovascular disease, neuroscience, infectious diseases and optical medicine," Keat Chuan Yeoh, director of Biomedical Sciences Group at the Singapore Economic Development Board, told OutSourcing-Pharma.com.
"These are the areas that we believe Singapore has its strengths in and pose the biggest potential for regional market growth," he said.
In addition, a new accreditation scheme for laboratory testing was recently established in the country by the Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC), in partnership with the College of American Pathologists (CAP).
"This programme will enhance the capability and credibility of testing services provided by our local medical laboratories," said Yeoh.
"Singapore is the first country to have such a programme with CAP."
Singapore is already a hub in the Asia-Pacific for biopharma firms and contract research organisations (CROs) to conduct their regional clinical development activities.
The regional benefits of lower cost per patient, vast patient population, combined with the availability of motivated, experienced English-speaking investigators, the broad adoption of International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines, have all made Singapore an attractive location for clinical trials.
Companies which have set up regional coordination centres and also conduct clinical trials in Singapore include AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering-Plough as well as Eli Lilly and Pfizer, who have also established their own dedicated Phase I units.
Several contract research organisations (CROs) also now have operations in Singapore, including, PPD, Icon Clinical Research, Covance, Quintiles and MDS Pharma Services, the latter three who have also set up dedicated central laboratory testing services.
As more and more biopharma companies carry out clinical trials in Asia, the country is looking to cement its reputation in this field before it is overshadowed by its vast neighbour China, a location that is also now gradually gaining in popularity.
China, despite its bureaucracy, government red tape and questions over intellectual property, topped a new list of the most attractive low-cost global locations to run clinical trials outside the US, while Singapore featured only at position 14.
Singapore's government is hoping that its latest investments will help drive the country further forward in this competitive industry faster.