Keeping the momentum

Life Sciences

A quiet year for Life Sciences

There was no significant change announced in Budget 2019 for Life Sciences. However, innovation and R&D continue to be a key focus for Singapore and in the Life Sciences context, continue to be a very important part of the value chain.

Investments in Health and Biomedical Science

Of the $19 billion investment in R&D announced under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan introduced in 2016, it is noted that $4 billion (the largest single amount allocated to the four key areas) was set aside for Health and Biomedical Sciences.

Building capabilities through collaboration

It is an opportune time for Life Sciences MNCs to collaborate with local SMEs and institutes on R&D. It provides opportunities to develop innovative drugs for the local population that can treat patients faster and more effectively, thereby reducing costs. Companies can also export these drugs to other regions, providing additional revenues.

Further areas that the sector can leverage Budget 2019 changes would be:

  1. Applying automation concepts to R&D to lower costs;
  2. Building capabilities in areas such as data science;
  3. Extending the focus on healthy food and smart therapies; and
  4. Using the increased focus on cyber security to secure healthcare data: a necessary first step to drive R&D in the sector.

A missed opportunity to breathe new life to Life Sciences

While it is encouraging that this Budget has provided support for healthcare costs, it is debatable if this can be a sustainable model for future generations especially with our increasing life expectancy. A key opportunity to reduce costs lies in developing more preventive and personalised medicines tapping on data relating to genetic profiles, patient outcome data sitting with hospitals, clinical data and consumer generated data from wearables. Budget 2019 has missed an opportunity in its lack of measures directed specifically at this.

Some Life Sciences R&D investments have already been driven out of Singapore. This could have been partially addressed through tax measures such as an enhanced tax deduction for clinical trials and related development activities undertaken outside Singapore that are linked to research activities performed in Singapore.


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