SINGAPORE: The medical technology (medtech) sector is expected to grow from US$88 billion (S$120 billion) in 2015 to US$133 billion in 2020 in Asia Pacific, and Singapore is "well-positioned" to act as a gateway to tap the market in the region, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran at a medtech showcase on Wednesday (Aug 31).
Speaking at the opening ceremony of Wednesday's event, Mr Iswaran noted the increasing demand for medtech products worldwide due to rising affluence and ageing populations.
More than a thousand companies from 45 countries are showcasing healthcare solutions at the Medical Manufacturing Asia and Medical Fair Asia exhibitions.
One product at the event is a patch that is billed as a first-of-its-kind nasal filter, designed to prevent inhalation of airborne particles like allergens, second-hand smoke and fine PM 2.5 particles from the haze. It started selling in the United States in 2007, and by next year, the company behind it, First Defense Nasal Screens International, is expanding its sales to Asia. It has also received a Class A exemption approval from Singapore's Health Sciences Authority, as it is not medicinal and non-intrusive to the body.
Said Mr Joseph K Moore, president and CEO of First Defense Nasal Screens: "A lot of people wear masks, and the problem with masks is that fewer than 30 per cent of the people will comply to a mask, while we have a 70 per cent compliance with it. And with the mask, air goes through the path of least resistance. So a lot of times, air will go around the mask, and you're breathing heavier when you have a mask on, so you are breathing deeper of what's (being) breathed into your mask anyway."
SUPPORTING MEDTECH DEVELOPMENT
In Singapore, the health and biomedical sciences sector has been allocated a budget of S$4 billion over the next five years to ensure that quality products are always being developed.
Mr Iswaran said: "The medtech sector is different from many other sectors, in that there are high barriers to entry at many stages of its value chain. At the research and development stage, high barriers to entry arise due to long development timelines and strict regulations which are necessary to safeguard the testing of new devices, as well as the need to navigate the patents and intellectual property rights space.
“At the production stage, there are high barriers to entry arising from the need for highly specialised equipment to deliver the levels of precision required in the manufacturing process."
To overcome such challenges, the Government is also providing assistance through grants and schemes.
One company which has tapped such support is Neurostyle. Together with A*STAR's Institute of Infocomm Research, it has come up with a system to rehabilitate stroke patients. A clinical trial, which is underway at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, gets stroke patients to imagine moving their limbs.
Dr Johnson Lu, director of Neurostyle, explained: "The system understands the brain's imagination, the status of the affected patient's brain imagination status, and integrates with the physical rehabilitation means. When these two combine together, we exercise the brain and the limb together. After a few rounds, after one and a half months, we see a very good progress in the recovery of the stroke patients.
“We can achieve better results, higher chance of recovery. Secondly, we can save the therapists' time. We can allow one therapist to manage quite a few patients because the system runs automatically."