Barry Halliwell, Professor of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore
Professor Barry Halliwell is a heavyweight biochemist in everything from biology to neuroscience to pharmacology and toxicology. With a PhD from Oxford, UK, he has been instrumental in developing a vast body of research on the role of free radicals and antioxidants in human diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancers. He’s now looking into a number of projects, including how antioxidants can be used to treat strokes and their impact on wound healing as well as antioxidants in relation to ageing. At the National University of Singapore, Halliwell drives the research agenda, plans research programmes and oversees the university’s research institutes. “We have built up a very good research team here and support for research funds is pretty good. Singapore has put enough money into the system that they can support all the good work that is being undertaken,” says Halliwell.
Other noteworthy projects currently being undertaken at the NUS include building up a solid research base for cancers that are more prevalent in Asians than westerners – research that hasn’t been carried out before – as well as drug metabolism in Asians, which differs from other races and that will have a significant impact on the types of drugs big pharma sells in countries such as China. With a boyish and mischievous air, Halliwell will no doubt be at the forefront of bringing these Singapore-designed products and models onto the regional stage.
Singapore has established strong fundamentals in healthcare excellence, having established the world’s 4th best healthcare infrastructure (World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010, IMD) while spending less than 4% of GDP on healthcare and providing universal coverage for Singaporeans with multiple layers of care. The standard of medical practice ranks among the best in the world. The Joint Commission International (JCI) has accredited 11 hospitals and three medical centres in Singapore.
The Ministry of Health has also restructured our healthcare system towards an integrated care model to provide patients with holistic and integrated care. The healthcare system is split into 6 regional healthcare systems, anchored by a regional Hospital working with a variety of Primary, Intermediate and Long-Term care sector and support services to deliver patient-centric care. The healthcare clusters - Alexandra Health Pte Ltd (anchored by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in the North), Eastern Health Alliance (anchored by Changi General Hospital in the East), National Healthcare Group (anchored by Tan Tock Seng Hospital in the central region), National University Health System (anchored by National University Hospital), Jurong Health (anchored by the upcoming Jurong General Hospital in the west) and SingHealth (anchored by the Singapore General Hospital) – have also been set up to drive the movement towards integrated care. The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) was set up to smooth the transition of patients from one care setting to another at the national level. This is also supported by the effort by the Ministry of Health to develop a nation-wide electronic medical records system, National Electronic Health Records.
Singapore’s healthcare institutions - comprising public hospitals, private hospitals and specialty centres - provide a complete spectrum of clinical services from basic health screening to dental surgery and quaternary care.
Major healthcare providers in the public sector include SingHealth and National Healthcare Group. In the private sector, local healthcare groups include the Parkway Group, Raffles Medical Group, Thomson Medical. Renowned services players in the healthcare space have also chosen to use Singapore as the regional or international headquarters to expand into Asia. Examples include Joint Commission International, IMS Health Asia, International SOS, Fortis Healthcare International, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
With our favourable business environment, proximity to Asia, strong talent base, and vibrant biomedical sciences ecosystem, Singapore becomes the natural “gateway” for companies to understand the fragmented healthcare markets in Asia and to grow in Asia.
Singapore is committed to driving innovation that addresses the rising costs and inefficiencies in healthcare systems worldwide. As the city-state adopts an integrated-care approach to sustain its objective of providing good and affordable healthcare and to find ways to tackle the challenges of an ageing population, Singapore seeks to promote innovation within the healthcare system that can achieve improved clinical outcomes and enable greater cost and operational efficiencies in the healthcare system.
Significantly, Singapore has established platforms embedded within the healthcare service providers, through the Health and Wellness Programme Office, a joint programme office between the EDB and Ministry of Health. These platforms allow our healthcare players to work with industry partners from various industries such as IT systems, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, nutrition and consumer lifestyle to co-develop and test-bed new products, solutions and business models. Companies are also able to leverage the strong foundation in basic biomedical sciences research and translational clinical research as well as track record in scientific and clinical excellence for that purpose. In addition, with the city-state being a microcosm of Asia, Singapore becomes an ideal base to design, develop, test-bed, and launch new healthcare solutions and systems to make inroads to the regional Asia Pacific and global markets.
Singapore has an established strong track record in scientific and clinical excellence. Leveraging its base of public-sector research institutes and global industry partners, Singapore offers strategic partnership opportunities for healthcare service providers to develop and test-bed innovative healthcare solutions and systems.
one-north Biopolis Medical Technology
One-north represents Singapore's progress into a knowledge and innovation-intensive economy. It is a vibrant hotspot for research, innovation and test-bedding where you can live, work, learn and be inspired by leading scientists, researchers and technopreneurs from around the world.
One-north plays host to 3 purpose-built hubs to house key public and private institutes and organisations: Biopolis, the biomedical R&D facility; Fusionopolis, dedicated to R&D in the Infocomms, Media, Science and Engineering industries; Mediapolis, a self-contained digital media cluster.
The growth of these industries is supported by one-north's key infrastructural development. Within one-north, private-sector research labs are co-located with public-sector research institutes, tertiary hospitals and universities. Shared facilities reduce ramp-up time and promote collaboration between researchers in both private and public sectors.
The Biopolis is the hallmark of Singapore's R&D success. It co-locates public sector research institutes with corporate labs and is designed to foster a collaborative culture among the institutions and organisations under its roof. At Biopolis, scientists, technoprenuers and researchers meet, forge partnerships and grow with renowned scientific institutions, through intensive research and graduate training programmes.
The Biopolis enables researchers to access state-of-the-art facilities, scientific infrastructure and specialised services. These allow companies to cut R&D costs significantly and accelerate the development timeline. In addition, there are conference facilities and meeting rooms that companies can use. By 2013, the Biopolis will provide more than 3.3 million square feet of space for biomedical sciences R&D activities.
The Biopolis is strategically located next to the Kent Ridge Campus, where our public hospital and medical school are located, thereby facilitating translational and clinical research. The specialised research institutes in Kent Ridge include the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, which is headed by Prof Daniel Tenen from Harvard. Leading companies such as AstraZeneca and Bayer Schering Pharma are partnering research units in the National University Health System at Kent Ridge for translational cancer research.
Fusionopolis is the first integrated work-live-play-learn development in one-north. Covering 30 hectares within one-north, the Fusionopolis cluster is developed in phases to introduce facilities, infrastructure and an environment conducive to growth in infocomm technology, media, physical sciences and engineering industries. Equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities, this complex will provide the ideal environment to foster synergistic collaborations, experimentation and collaborations between the public and private research institutes.
A massive test-bed for new technologies, Fusionopolis Phase 2A is designed to house dry and wet laboratories, clean rooms and vibration sensitive test-bedding facilities. Phase 2A features Singapore's largest R&D clean room facility and provides 103,635 sqm of Business Park and R&D space when it is completed in 2014.
Mediapolis at one-north is a digital media capital where top quality content will be produced for international markets.
When completed, Mediapolis will house a media ecosystem of soundstages with green screen capabilities, including digital production and broadcast facilities and interactive digital media (IDM) and R&D activities, amongst an extensive range of other facilities and amenities. Its IT infrastructure and technology platform will draw media companies which rely on high-speed broadband connectivity to enable the processing, management and distribution of digital media content and services.
Award-winning local media production company, Infinite Frameworks (IFW), will invest, occupy, develop and build Singapore's first soundstage facility at Mediapolis.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS PROGRAMME OFFICE (HWPO)
The EDB-MOH Health and Wellness Programme Office (HWPO) is a joint initiative between Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and Ministry of Health, Singapore (MOH). HWPO seeks to bring together healthcare stakeholders and industry players to drive co-innovation and subsequent test-bedding of healthcare solutions that will address key challenges in our healthcare system. This not only enhances Singapore's healthcare system, but also seeks to accelerate companies' development of future solutions for Asia and beyond. Through these innovation partnerships, HWPO seeks to entrench Singapore as a sophisticated lead market to co-create, conceptualise and test-bed future solutions that can address unmet healthcare needs in Asia and global markets.
To promote greater innovation culture within our healthcare stakeholders, HWPO worked with multiple agencies such as SPRING Singapore, Information Development Authority of Singapore, Design Singapore to set up an annual platform, Healthcare Innovators Forum to bring together clinicians, hospital administrators, government authorities and industry players to discuss about key problem statements impacting Singapore’s healthcare systems and brainstorm on potential solutions around the problem statements.
Healthcare Innovators Forum 2012 was the 4th HIF organised. The event continued to gain traction bringing together about 350 participants over 2 days of the event.
Silver Community Test-Bed Programme
Launched by the Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports (MCYS), the Silver Community Test Bed Programme offers a platform for companies, public agencies and educational institutions to test-bed age-friendly assistive devices and products in a real-life home setting. MCYS had provided up to S$3 million as seed funding to facilitate the test-bed process for the 1st and 2nd grant calls in 2008 and 2009. The first two calls provided a chance for participating seniors to experience state-of-the-art technology, such as personal care robot to a touch-screen communication device and a wireless health monitoring system.
In July 2010, MCYS launched the third grant call for proposals and HWPO supported the grant call with the objective of supporting companies with proposals to develop innovative and affordable solutions that enable seniors to live and remain in the community, across the health and social care continuum. The grant call saw various SMEs getting sufficient start up grants to work with clinicians to develop and test-bed products catered to the needs of the elder population.
National Grand Challenge
Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB) has launched the inaugural National Grand Challenge in 2010. Supported by HWPO, this sought for proposals from companies to develop new solutions to prevent and control obesity and pre-diabetes. This grant call saw companies, both MNCs and SMEs, working together with partners in Singapore’s public-sector healthcare system to develop and test-bed innovative technologies and business models to address the key national challenges.
Establishment of the Super-platforms
HWPO has also established “Superplatforms” within 2 of the healthcare clusters, Alexandra Health Pte Ltd, and Eastern Health Alliance, in order to drive the development of innovative healthcare solutions. The superplatforms comprise of a dedicated innovation team, and dedicated open infrastructure within the entire continuum of care to prototype and test-bed new solutions. The dedicated team serves to help companies navigate within their respective regional health systems and identify the most relevant patient populations to work with, and drives the co-development and test-bedding of the innovative and comprehensive healthcare solutions across the entire continuum of care, together with industry partners.
The Eastern Health Alliance opened its Centre for Innovation (CFI), together with Changi Simulation Institute, on 23 November 2012. The CFI is intended to be an innovation incubator for healthcare delivery, and has a dedicated Innovation team which will be in charge of fostering an ‘innovation culture’ within the EHA, and facilitating people coming together to develop innovative ideas, and for the ideas to be nurtured, take root and be implemented. More importantly, they will act as the bridge between clinicians and industry partners, by bringing in the industry partners with the capabilities to collaborate and develop complete solutions comprising technologies, services and business models for the prevention, and management of diseases and chronic health conditions.
Click here to find out more about the Centre for Innovation and the Changi Simulation Institute.
Companies have leveraged the multiple initiatives and have used Singapore successfully as the “living lab” to co-develop and test-bed new products and business models for Asia. Examples of companies are as follow:
Hill-Rom: Driving Innovation for Asia Pacific in Singapore
Hill-Rom has established its Asia-Pacific Innovation Centre in Singapore to focus on applied development in micro-electronics, embedded software and electro-mechanical systems, all of which are integral to the development of new Hill-Rom beds and therapy surfaces. The centre is the base for Hil-Rom to develop R&D projects for global applications for Hill-Rom products.
In 2010, Hill-Rom launched the Patient Support Development Center in Singapore. This centre has collaborated with hospitals in Singapore, and in Asia to develop new products for the region. Hill-Rom also launched a Respiratory Care Development Center that will identify and develop innovative global respiratory care products in Singapore.
Hocoma AG: Developing Applications for Medical Robotics
Hocoma AG - a Swiss medical technology company, a leader in robotic rehabilitation therapy for neurological movement disorders - announced its partnership with Singapore’s Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) Rehabilitation Centre to develop and optimise clinical and equipment applications in 2010. TTSH Rehabilitation Centre is also the Training Centre for Hocoma in Asia Pacific.
Since its inception, TTSH became the first hospital in Asia Pacific to adopt the latest version of the LokomatPro, a robot-assisted walking therapy device. The LokomatPro was incorporated in 2011 at TTSH’s Centre for Advanced Rehabilitation Therapeutics (CART), the first regional centre dedicated in offering robotics and virtual reality programs alongside conventional rehabilitation therapies to help maximise patients’ rehabilitation outcomes.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) Rehabilitation Centre and Hocoma AG have renewed their partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will chart new territories for both organisations on the use of innovative rehabilitation technologies in Asia Pacific.
A*STAR-Tekes: Developing Online Health Monitoring Platform
In January 2010, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, announced the first bilateral Joint Call for Proposals (JCP) in areas including healthcare, wellness and ageing. The JCP is part of the 2nd Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both parties to promote R&D and scientific collaboration.
This follows the success of projects under the first MOU, which included the development of an online health monitoring platform that can remotely track the sleep activity of elderly patients. This platform has been successfully tested at a Singapore nursing home, allowing caregivers to monitor and advise their patients from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection.
As an advanced urbanised, and rapidly ageing nation in Asia with healthcare excellence, Singapore presents a sophisticated “living lab” that companies can leverage to fast-track their innovation process to develop future solutions that can address Asia’s fast-growing healthcare needs.
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FACTS AND FIGURES
- Singapore has achieved world-class standards in healthcare - Singapore offers the world's 4th best healthcare infrastructure (IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2009) and is the world's 3rd lowest in infant mortality and 7th highest in life expectancy (WEF Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010).
- Joint Commission International (JCI) has set up its Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore and has since accredited eleven hospitals and three medical centres in Singapore.
- Singapore hosts the regional secretariats of prominent international healthcare organisations such as the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and Joint Commission International (JCI). The Asia-Pacific office of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is also in Singapore.
- HIMSS Asia Pacific 2012 Conference was recently held in Singapore, bringing together over 1,900 participants from industry, government and academics to discuss prevalent trends and vital issues affecting healthcare IT from around the region and across the globe. This is the second time that HIMSS Asia Pac is held in Singapore.
- International research organisations that have established their presence here include the American Association for Cancer Research, Duke University, and Johns Hopkins University. Companies and scientists are working with these research institutes to accelerate drug discovery and develop novel therapies for unmet healthcare needs.
- Singapore was conferred "Best Medical/Wellness Tourism Destination" at the TravelWeekly (Asia) Industry Awards for two consecutive years (2007, 2008).
FEATURED PEOPLE, PLACES
Ranga Krishnan, Dean, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore
“We want people who can think. Who can look at a problem, be curious about it and try to get an answer. The key is critical thinking,” explains Ranga Krishnan. As the dean of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, Krishnan is overseeing the development of the local campus of the North Carolina-based Duke University.
The collaboration was initiated in 2005 as part of the US university’s mission to build a quality medical school in Asia. Today, Duke-NUS takes in 56 students a year and has expanded to 103 research faculty staff who focus on everything from cancer and stem cell research to neuroscience and cardiovascular and metabolic research. Though it has already filed for 18 patents, the groundbreaking innovation here is also about new ways of learning.
Gone are the lectures and lecture theatres – at Duke-NUS, students watch lectures online and only meet in the classroom to discuss and problem solve. The model, entirely developed at the Singapore campus, has drawn delegations from around the world keen to see the novel learning in action (and perhaps to replicate it at home). Even the Singapore army has popped by to see how teaching is done here. Krishnan muses as he talks about being a leader in new learning methods. He’s even more pleased at the prospect of his medical school being a model for future medical school curriculums across Asia.
Jackie Ying, Executive Director, Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology
Wearing trainers and a girlish smile, Professor Jackie Ying cuts an easy-going figure. But behind the relaxed appearance is a person who puts rigour at the top of her long list of accomplishments. An adjunct professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, Ying founded Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology (IBN) in 2003. Under her leadership, the multi-disciplinary IBN has grown to include 150 biologists, medical doctors, chemists and engineers working on inventions such as a portable kit for infectious diseases (perfect for use at airports, for example) as well as a device that separates tumor and blood cells, which makes diagnosis and prognosis easier. All in all, they’ve filed over 300 technological patents.
Other projects include the development of fuel-cell technology using gold, copper and platinum nanoparticles that could power aircraft and equipment, and the development of biomaterials for tissue and cell engineering. “An emphasis on research and development and has been very successful in attracting the industry to come here, so Singapore has been able to very quickly develop a niche in certain research areas and to attract a critical mass of talented people,” Ying says. “That means new ideas come together with the resources provided, which allow people to really move ahead with innovation.” Though she spends most of her waking hours at the IBN labs, Ying tries to get away for some R&R from time to time. Top of her list of relaxing hobbies? Snorkelling.