Senior Vice President (Healthcare Bio)
Since the launch of the National Biotechnology Policy back in 2005, Bioeconomy Corporation has played a key role as the lead government agency facilitating the development of Bio-based Industries in Malaysia. The Healthcare Bio Industry consists of numerous sectors which produce staple products ranging from medicines to medical devices as well as standardized herbal products. In addition, more exotic fare such as cellular-based medicine and even service providers such as companies doing contract research and clinical trial services. In the past seven years, Malaysia’s Healthcare Bio Industry has entered a period of significant growth with the entry of multiple strategic and high-impact projects especially in the Biopharma and Biomedical Technology sectors.
The Transformation of Malaysia’s Healthcare Bio Industry
Malaysia’s Biopharma Industry received a much needed boost with the entry of Biocon which built Asia’s largest integrated Insulin facility located at Malaysia’s premier Biotechnology Park and Ecosystem, Bio-XCell. Key achievements of the project include Realised Investment of over RM 1 Billion for a large scale Biotech R & D and Manufacturing global hub facility producing for markets such as the US, Europe and Japan; Creation of more than 500 high-end Knowledge Worker Jobs (more than 85% Malaysians). Being locally manufactured, the biosimilar insulin from Biocon has led to a significant reduction in healthcare costs attributed to Diabetes, which affects almost 1 out of 5 adults in Malaysia.
In the past, the local Malaysian Biopharma Industry mainly consisted of generic drug manufacturing. Over the years, Bioeconomy Corporation has been actively facilitating industry players who aspired to go up the value chain by participating in high value activities. Amongst them include CCM DuoPharma Biotech Berhad which has successfully completed their Phase III clinical trials for the biosimilar erythropoietin or EPO product which can be used in kidney dialysis. Chronic Kidney disease is the 9th most common cause of death in Malaysia.
Another Malaysian company, Bioven is currently developing an immunotherapy drug, EGF PTI for non-small cell lung cancer with a key achievement of running their ongoing final Phase III clinical trials in the key Biopharma markets, USA and Europe. Lung cancer is the No.1 cause of cancer deaths in Malaysia accounting for almost 20% of all medically certified deaths due to cancers.
Other notable projects by Malaysian companies include Biocare, which completed South East Asia’s first Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI) facility. These MDIs are typically used in asthma care and has already helped reduce the healthcare cost paradigm for asthma treatment in Malaysia.
In Malaysia, Medical Devices is the key industry under the Biomedical Technology Sector. Malaysia’s Medical Device industry accounts for almost RM 18 Billion worth of exports in 2017 and consists of a wide range of product types (Typically classified according to its risk impact to human health). Majority of Malaysian medical devices consist of latex-based products such as rubber gloves and catheters for medical use. As part of the efforts to bring our industry up the value chain, Bioeconomy Corporation has worked with many stakeholders including MIDA and Northern Corridor Investment Authority to secure projects by Industry players to produce more complex medical devices. These projects include the Intraocular lens facility by Abbott (Now under Johnson & Johnson), Pacemakers by St. Jude Medical (now Abbott), Blood Management Products by Hemonetics and Kidney Dialysis products by Fresenius.
Way Forward for Malaysia’s Healthcare Bio Industry
As Malaysia’s Healthcare Bio Industry progresses, we look forward to new activities by Industry players including High potency Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (HAPIs) and more Biosimilar facilities. As part of Malaysia’s effort to enhance BioDefence efforts, building up capacity in production of Human Vaccines is key. For Cellular Medicine, the guidelines for Cellular and Gene Therapy products would continue to shape the subsector.
New challenges in the form of the 4th Industrial Revolution would see further transformation of the Healthcare Bio Industry. Inputs from Industry 4.0 such as Data Analytics & System Integration, Additive Manufacturing and Internet of Things would result in paradigm changes in key aspects such as manufacturing, supply chain and even healthcare delivery. Some of the initial inputs are already fuelling new growth areas such as Precision Medicine.
To ensure success in Healthcare Bio, Malaysia needs to continuously advance while ensuring that inputs from 4th Industrial Revolution are taken into consideration. The future is here and it’s time to embrace it.