SINGAPORE: New platforms and a grant scheme were among the additional measures introduced on Wednesday (Jun 26) to boost Singapore’s drug development efforts.
These were announced during the opening ceremony for the Experimental Drug Development Centre (EDDC) in Biopolis at one-north, which was officiated by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat.
Mr Heng is also the chairman of the National Research Foundation.
The new national platforms aim to “bridge the ‘valley of death’ between basic science research and pharmaceutical enterprises”, said the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in a press release.
“They will also serve to catalyse collaboration across industry, research institutes, academia and the hospitals, as well as nurture a strong pool of scientific talent for Singapore’s biomedical ecosystem,” the agency added.
The EDDC will integrate A*STAR’s drug discovery and development units.
It will “leverage Singapore’s competitive advantage in melding biomedical sciences. Clinical medicine and engineering, to bring early drug targets to first-in-man clinical trials”, says A*STAR.
In his speech, Mr Heng said the centre’s opening means Singapore can play its part in meeting global demand for healthcare.
“We are the third largest health-tech investment ecosystem in Asia, after China and India,” he said.
“Singapore also has a multi-ethnic population the encompasses the major ethnicities in Asia, which will aid in our drug discovery and development efforts aimed at the Asian market.”
Two Memoranda of Agreement (MOU) were also signed on Wednesday.
The first marks the formation of the Target Translation Consortium (TTC). Helmed by the EDDC, this is a collaboration between government agencies and academic and healthcare institutions to conduct early-stage drug discovery efforts.
The second was to form the Singapore Therapeutics Development Review (STDR) grant scheme.
Signed by A*STAR, the National Health Innovation Centre and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), the scheme will fund early-stage projects up to S$750,000.
“This will pool together each organisation’s expertise and resources, to increase the chances for successful commercialisation,” Mr Heng said.
He also emphasised the importance of talent circulation, calling it “critical” in advancing the biomedical sector.
“We must continue to nurture local researchers and provide them with exciting opportunities to grow, while also welcoming international talent to our fold.”
However, Mr Heng noted that this does not only include scientists.
“Collaboration across academia, industry and the public sector is key to creating greater value in drug discovery and development,” he said.
“We must equally nurture our pool of scientific talent, and encourage the circulation of talent to tighten the nexus for partnerships and collaboration.”