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Meeting Singapore’s Needs to Increase COVID-19 Testing

An interview with Mr. Abel Ang, Group Chief Executive of Advanced MedTech, on how AbAsia Biolabs can help Singapore meet the growing demand for COVID-19 test kits.

As we begin to live with the new normal, COVID-19 testing will become more commonplace. Given Singapore’s small size and lack of natural resources, the country’s supply chain is vulnerable to external threats like COVID-19. There is a need to ensure that Singapore’s access to COVID-19 test kits is sheltered from any supply and logistical disruptions arising from international supply chain breakdowns.

Advanced MedTech Holdings (AMTH), a global medical technology leader, has co-founded a Singapore-based venture, AbAsia Biolabs, with Professor Sir David Lane, former Chief Scientist at A*STAR and Professor Birgit Lane, former Executive Director at the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) and Skin Research Institute of Singapore (SRIS). Here, we have Mr. Abel Ang, Group Chief Executive of Advanced MedTech to share with us how AbAsia can help Singapore meet the growing demand for COVID-19 test kits.

How has COVID-19 affected Singapore’s production line?

Early in the pandemic, the fragility of our global supply chain was exposed when global lockdown measures led to potential shortages of critical food, pharmaceutical and medical equipment.

At the time, we realised we had to be agile and think about how to strengthen the domestic production here in Singapore.

The focus has been to keep citizens safe and ensure that essential supplies were available in adequate levels to keep the country functioning – focusing on bouncing back when the situation with the pandemic had stabilised.

What are Singapore’s current COVID-19 testing and manufacturing capabilities?

At the outbreak of the pandemic in April 2020, Singapore was processing an average of 2,900 PCR tests a day. The government has now ramped up the capacity in the labs to conduct between 60,000 to 70,000 tests per day.

How prepared is Singapore to manage the pandemic long-term?

Testing for new COVID-19 cases will now be a regular aspect of life in Singapore, and the country has implemented mechanisms to adapt and meet this heightened demand.

Singapore’s Prime Minister has talked about routinely and regularly testing people who appear well, in normal work or social or community settings, to make these places safe. With an extensive manufacturing capacity, which allows Advanced MedTech to produce several million Resolute 2.0 kits a month, we will be able to do our part to support the government in its efforts to keep the country safe.

As the government ramps up on COVID-19 testing, how does Advanced MedTech ensure that demand for test kits is met?

The team at Advanced MedTech quickly responded to the country’s call for more testing capacity, by rapidly standing up the largest manufacturing facility for test kits in the time frame of only six weeks. The facility has a capacity of 3 million kits per month. This was only possible through a deep and extensive partnership with A*STAR and DSO.

Aside from manufacturing key reagents in diagnostic kits, how else is Advanced MedTech contributing to fight the pandemic?

Advanced MedTech is the largest medical device manufacturer in Southeast Asia, headquartered in Singapore with both manufacturing and R&D facilities. As such, we felt that we had a strong social responsibility to do everything we could to support our country and our partners in the fight against COVID-19.

We saw the need to help Singapore expands its nationwide testing capabilities significantly last year when COVID-19 cases were on the rise. To meet this end, we set up one of the country’s largest automated in-vitro diagnostic facilities for COVID kits.

Beyond kits, we leveraged our extensive supply chain capabilities to procure and distribute Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in order to meet the PPE shortages that we saw in the early days of the pandemic. This eventually became the #MillionMaskProject and we ended up distributing more than 3.2 million face masks, of which more than two-thirds were N95 grade. The masks were distributed to healthcare facilities all over the world: United States, Brazil, Malaysia, Germany, and many other countries.

To strengthen Singapore’s resilience in respiratory equipment, Advanced MedTech also invested US$10 million with SEEDS Capital in ABM Respiratory Care, a medical device company developing novel integrated airway clearance and ventilation solutions.

This funded the global commercialisation of the Alpha ventilator, the world’s first telehealth ventilator that allows healthcare providers to remotely control breathing for patients with severe respiratory distress. The treatment information is transmitted to caregivers in real-time, allowing smaller healthcare teams to remotely monitor and adjust patient settings. Reducing the number of bedside visits reduced the risk of infection while conserving essential PPE.

Our team initiated the #BillionBreathProject, aimed at supporting healthcare workers against COVID-19. As part of this CSR outreach, we have distributed almost US$2 million worth of ventilators to hospitals in pandemic hotspots across Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and India. [APBN]

About the Interviewee

Mr. Abel Ang was appointed as Executive Director and Group CEO of Advanced MedTech Group in 2014.

Mr. Ang was formerly Senior Advisor to the CEO of Integer (NYSE: ITGR), the largest contract manufacturer of medical implants in the world. He was President, Asia Pacific for Hill-Rom Inc, (NYSE: HRC), where he was responsible for expanding Hill-Rom’s presence in the high growth Asia Pacific markets. He also served as Hill-Rom’s Chief Technology Officer where he was responsible for Hill-Rom’s global R&D operations distributed across sites in the U.S., Mexico, France, and Singapore. He was also Vice-President and General Manager of Hill-Rom’s US$420M Global Surfaces and Therapy Business Unit; and Vice-President for International Business and Technology Development.

Mr. Ang sits on the Board of Accelerate Technologies which provides access to Singapore’s largest pool of intellectual property and knowledge generated by over 2,000 researchers at A*STAR’s research institutes. Mr. Ang is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Nanyang Business School in Singapore and Waseda University in Japan, where he teaches in their respective MBA programs.