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Prof Joseph Sung, Senior Vice President (Health & Life Sciences), Dean, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, NTU Singapore

Prof Philip Choo, Group Chief Executive Officer, National Healthcare Group

Mr Frederick Chew, Chief Executive Officer, A*STAR 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to join you today at the launch of co11ab Novena (co11ab), the first biomedtech incubator embedded in Health City Novena. The launch today marks another significant milestone in the advancement of Singapore’s biomedical sciences sector to better support our public healthcare needs.

Opportunities in New Frontiers 

2. As a biomedical hub, Singapore is keenly aware of the importance of innovation and research, and the translation of research into outcomes that improve healthcare solutions, medicines and medical devices. We are seeing exciting new technological frontiers open. Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) plan has laid the groundwork for our science and technology efforts nationally. The current RIE2025 Plan continues to provide support for frontier technologies to develop a strong starter culture for innovations in the biomedical sciences. This will create opportunities for research and innovation to solve the challenges of today and the future.  

3. This includes our ageing population and increasing healthcare manpower needs, which are driving a growing demand for affordable biotech, medtech, and digital health solutions. The projection is that the number of biotech companies in Singapore will grow by over 60% in the next 10 years1. There is therefore a need to harness the insights and breakthroughs from our researchers and scientists in the biomedical sciences, especially in precision medicine, and in new developments in biomedical technology and diagnostics, to uncover potential ‘medical moonshots’, unlock their potential for preventive care, and ensure that these are safe and implementable in Singapore.

4. The research and innovation journey is not without its challenges. Potentially, it is all about the challenges. We recognise that startups face several obstacles in translating their technologies and bringing their products to market. There is a need for early involvement of clinicians to ensure that solutions are well-designed for local needs. The stringent regulatory and policy landscape in the healthcare industry often results in a longer gestation period for startups. And the high cost burden of owning specialised equipment or building R&D facilities poses significant challenges. 

Foster collaboration for healthcare transformation

5. Co11ab will play an important role to address these challenges and support the translation of biomed innovations from drawing board to concrete adoption. It will help bridge research, clinical and venture creation activities by establishing itself as a national innovation and translational hub for bettering the health of our population. 

6. Leveraging the strong partnership between Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and National Healthcare Group (NHG), co11ab strategically positions itself amongst public agencies, academia, startups, and industry players to foster partnership between researchers, clinicians and business leaders. Because to advance healthcare, we will increasingly need to collaborate across disciplines, and leverage data and technology such as artificial intelligence (AI). This will help us to do more, do better, and with greater precision and personalisation for individuals.

7. Co11ab’s location within NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) and in the heart of HealthCity Novena is no coincidence. With various R&D stakeholders under its roof, co11ab will serve as an important base for the exchange of ideas and for startups to access needed services and know-how in their journey toward successful clinical trials, product validation, and market launch. These are important elements to foster collaboration in the health ecosystem, and channel our collective wisdom towards healthcare transformation.

8. Last year, co11ab co-organised the A*STAR Makeathon innovation challenge. Themed “Health & Wellness in the Digital Age”, scientists and clinicians from A*STAR, NTU and NHG with problem statements from the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation and other healthcare investment partners came together for a three-month programme to accelerate the development of healthcare solutions. My congratulations to the winning teams of A*STAR’s Innovation Award! Far more importantly, it is the process to which these partners have come together and institutionalised these type of partnership and collaboration in problem solving. I hope the teams will continue to translate innovative solutions into successful applications in our community.  

9. We also see collaborations with valued international partners, such as that of LKCMedicine, NHG, and Imperial College London on the Health for Life in Singapore (HELIOS) study – a ground-breaking 20-year longitudinal health study involving 100,000 Singaporean residents to investigate the interplay between environmental, health, lifestyle, and genetic data. As part of the SG100K research programme, this study will serve as a valuable resource towards developing better approaches for predicting, preventing, and even managing chronic diseases in Singapore’s cohort. Additionally, the Wound Care Innovation for the Tropics (WCIT) programme, developed by A*STAR, NHG, National University Health System (NUHS) and SingHealth, aims to harness the power of AI for wound assessment, healing outcome prediction and risk stratification of chronic wounds. The tool could be expanded into a platform used by both clinicians and patients for remote wound monitoring and better coordination of care. 


10. These are all but small part of the examples of many important collaborations that will help us together, build up our knowhow and capabilities, especially when dealing with novel and likely disruptive technologies and innovations. In translating the knowhow and capabilities to solutions that address our most pressing healthcare needs and challenges, I look forward to co11ab serving a critical role in bridging the gap between groundbreaking research and successful commercial ventures, and supporting partnerships to deliver impactful solutions that will ultimately benefit our healthcare system and all our residents and patients.

11. Once again, congratulations to co11ab and its founding members for setting up this incubator. Together, we look forward to a more vibrant future for our healthcare system. Thank you.

1 LEK Consulting forecasts that the number of biotech companies in Singapore will grow by 61.5% between 2022 and 2032. Published in Feb 7, 2023 Straits Times article (Link).

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