Updated on 21 February 2014
Dr Syamala Ariyanchira, consultant, AcuBiz Consulting, Malaysia
Singapore: Malaysia could soon be a force to reckon with in Asia's in vitro diagnostics (IVD) sector, if the recent government focus is any indication. The Economic Transformation Program (ETP) launched by Malaysian government in 2010 as a platform to accelerate the country's growth has set a target of raising the country's Gross National Income (GNI) to $523 billion by 2020 and per capita income from $6,700-to-$15,000.
A number of key economic areas were identified, with healthcare being one of them. Realizing the significance of IVD as a potential income generator, IVD has been selected as the seventh Entry Point Project (EPP 7) under healthcare, which focuses on up scaling Malaysia's IVD industry. EPP 7 is intended to help raise Malaysia's IVD profile globally, with an initial focus on the needs of developing countries. Targets set for EPP 7 include RM760 million GNI and 3,620 jobs by 2020.
As Asia's significance as one of the key economic centres of the world is becoming more apparent, emerging nations in the region are making bold moves to gain visibility in innovative sectors such as information technology, telecommunications, and biotechnology. By making medical devices and diagnostics as the focus of seven out of thirteen EPP Malaysian government makes its intentions is obvious.
The IVD sector, in particular, is seeing significant activities lately. The growing middle class and aging population in the country are fuelling the demand for rapid, accurate and highly informative diagnostic solutions. The industry is responding with enthusiasm to this rising demand and the encouragement of the government. Several local companies including many start-ups and spin off companies from local universities have launched their products and are making aggressive business plans to tap the opportunities in the country as well as in the region.
The move of Germany-based Altona Diagnostics to open its Asia Pacific head quarters in Malaysia has been a clear indication of the attention the country is receiving post its ETP launch in 2010. Named as ADT Biotech, this company develops and commercializes molecular diagnostic kits based on real-time PCR for a variety of respiratory, enteric, blood-borne, and tropical viruses.
The company offers user friendly solutions as all its kits are validated for use on a broad range of real-time PCR instruments. One of the areas where Altona expects to derive value from their decision to invest in Malaysia is in the field of tropical diseases. This is complimentary to the company's USD12.6 million investment for four-year collaboration with Germany's Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine for developing specimen bank for tropical and rare diseases. Started as a small set up consisting of just five people, ADT Biotech targets to grow as a significant player in APAC in molecular diagnostics field, and sets its goal to achieve 10% market share in the region in three years.