Growing demand for diagnostics in Singapore’s healthcare

The healthcare system in Asia is under stress. Demand for healthcare continues to escalate, driven by rapidly ageing populations with complex healthcare needs, a shift in focus from infectious to life-threatening diseases and a more informed populace. In Singapore, diagnostics has emerged as a way for earlier and better identification of diseases to control rising healthcare costs. Diagnostics entails identification of an illness, or symptoms that could convert into a potential disease. Singapore: home to more than 30 Med Tech companies Along with the country’s state-of-the-art infrastructure and high standards of medical practice, Singapore has become a natural choice for many global diagnostic companies to establish their regional business operations. The country is home to more than 30 medical technology companies, most of whom have set up their R&D headquarters or centres of excellence here. As part of Singapore’s cluster development plans, the commercial arm of the country’s science and research agency A*STAR launched the Diagnostics Development (DXD) hub in 2014 as a national initiative. The hub seeks to accelerate market readiness of locally developed diagnostics products by getting clinicians, researchers, innovators and industry professionals to collaborate on a single common platform. Pushing the boundaries of diagnosis with the DXD Hub The DXD Hub serves as a convenient platform for MNCs and researchers to tap into in-vitro technology innovations via public-private partnerships and access test-bedding infrastructure in hospitals. Diagnostics can be broadly categorised into in-vivo diagnostics and in-vitro diagnostics. The former refers to tests such as x-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs whereas the latter refers to blood, urine or tissue samples that are taken from a patient to detect infections or diseases. Despite how in-vitro diagnostic is an important early intervention tool for diseases, only two per cent of overall worldwide healthcare spending goes towards in-vitro diagnostics. “Through the DXD Hub, we hope to create a sustainable diagnostics devices ecosystem, and attract and anchor more global companies who are looking to use Singapore as a launch pad into Asia,” said Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman of A*STAR. Within two years of its launch, DXD Hub has already formed multiple partnerships across both public and private sectors and amassed a database of over 350 diagnostic IP leads. For instance, Biocartis, an innovative commercial stage molecular diagnostics company headquartered in Belgium, has entered into a partnership with DXD Hub to jointly develop a range of high precision molecular diagnostic tests for their Idylla™ platform. The platform is a fully automated real-time system that offers accurate and reliable molecular information from any biological sample. MiRXES, a Singapore headquartered life sciences company, is also working closely with the DXD Hub to develop non-invasive blood based molecular tests. With just a few drops of blood serum, these tests are able to yield results for early detection of gastric and breast cancer within a few hours. More recently, DXD has entered into a collaboration with bioMérieux, a global leader in in-vitro diagnostics, to develop diagnostic tests that will facilitate quicker and more accurate diagnosis of infectious diseases such as Zika. The way forward The in-vitro diagnostics industry is expected to see exponential growth in the coming years. The global market share of this segment in 2014 was estimated at US$57 billion, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of six per cent to US$81 billion by 2020. Asia is the fastest growing region in this space, with a double-digit growth rate of nearly 13 per cent. Through the DXD Hub, Singapore hopes to capture the opportunities of this fast-growing market, by attracting innovative companies to develop investible diagnostic assets that could potentially improve healthcare outcomes, and bring down overall medical costs. “With more players in the diagnostics field, we can look forward to seeing more innovative products from Singapore entering the global market,” said Poh.