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National Platforms Created to Accelerate Singapore’s Drug Development Efforts

Collaborations between research institutions and healthcare providers look to enhance the competitive edge in drug discovery for Singapore’s biomedical ecosystem.

The nation’s drug development efforts have been given additional momentum with the introduction of two new platforms, and a grant scheme for drug discovery and development.

The national platforms aim to bridge the gap between scientific research and pharmaceutical enterprises. They will also serve to catalyse collaboration across industry, research institutes, academia, and the hospitals. Thereby nurturing a strong pool of scientific talent for Singapore’s biomedical ecosystem.

The launch announcement for these platforms were made during the opening ceremony of the Experimental Drug Development Centre (EDDC) in Biopolis, officiated by Mr Heng Swee Kiat, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, and Chairman of the National Research Foundation (NRF).

EDDC is a national platform for drug discovery and development to channel high potential drug candidates towards clinical and commercial outcomes for the benefit of patients. EDDC integrates A*STAR’s Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC), the clinical development unit known as Drug Discovery and Development (D3), and the Experimental Biotherapeutics Centre (EBC). The collaboration will leverage on the skills and expertise of these groups for Singapore to have a competitive advantage. With a growing Asian market, there are opportunities for Singapore to focus on novel therapeutics for Asia-prevalent diseases.

The Target Translation Consortium (TTC) was also launched bringing together A*STAR, Duke-NUS Medical School, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, National Healthcare Group, National University of Singapore, National University Health System, and SingHealth. Helmed by EDDC, this new TTC coordinates early-stage drug discovery efforts across academia, healthcare institutions, and government agencies.

To complement these two new platforms, the Singapore Therapeutics Development Review (STDR) grant scheme was also announced. STDR consolidates three separate schemes by A*STAR, the National Health Innovation Centre Singapore (NHIC), as well as the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART); into a new grant that funds early-stage projects up to S$750,000. It combines the expertise and resources of all three organisations, streamlining the assessment and feedback process for promising drug discovery and development projects. Ensuring that projects with high potential are adequately funded without undue delay, which strengthens the pipeline of home-grown drug candidates.

The Singapore biomedical sciences sector has also seen a growth trajectory of home-grown biomedical companies. Singapore now has close to 100 local biotech companies, which collectively contributed more than US$350 million in deal flows in 2018 alone. In 2017, Singapore’s three largest biotech companies were reported to have an estimated collective valuation of more than US$1 billion [Cell Research Corporation, S$700M; Tessa Therapeutics, S$650M; Aslan Pharmaceutical, S$400M]. Singapore now has an increasingly rich mix of biomedical talent, knowledge and capabilities, a vibrant biomedical business environment, and an ecosystem that fosters innovation and the sharing of new ideas. [APBN]