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Dr Thomas Schinecker, Global CEO, Roche Group

His Excellency Frank Grütter, Ambassador of Switzerland to Singapore

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen

1. This evening, I am pleased to mark Roche’s 50th anniversary in Singapore with all of you.

Growth of Roche Singapore

2. Singapore was a young country in 1973 when Roche began its operations here. You started with a small office in Shenton Way with a small handful of staff. Three years later, in 1976, Roche expanded to include new warehousing facilities and a diagnostics lab.

3. You developed two separate businesses – Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. Fast forward to 1998, Roche Diagnostics Singapore was established as a separate entity from Pharmaceuticals.

4. In 2009, Roche invested around US$500 million to establish two biologics manufacturing plants in Singapore, one focused on bacterial biologics and the other on mammalian biologics. These were Roche’s first biologics manufacturing facilities in the Asia Pacific region. As a result, Singapore became an integral part of Roche’s global supply chain.

5. Further fast forward to today, Roche Singapore employs more than 1,000 people across four divisions in pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, diabetes care and manufacturing. The two manufacturing plants in Singapore are now merged under Roche Singapore Technical Operations, producing a substantial amount of oncology and ophthalmology drugs annually.

6. Today, Singapore is Roche’s Asia Pacific headquarters and Centre of Excellence for diagnostics. Patients in Singapore and the region benefit from your world-leading expertise in invitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics. Roche’s diagnostic solutions in oncology, cardiometabolic diseases, neurology and diabetes management provide personalised healthcare for patients in these areas.

7. This is an impressive growth story, and Singapore is proud to be part of it. I congratulate Roche Singapore for your remarkable achievement over the last half a century, and look forward to an even closer partnership between Roche and Singapore for many more years to come.

Singapore’s attractiveness to companies

8. So let me ask at this juncture, why do companies like Roche, which produces high value-add and high intellectual property (IP) content, choose to anchor themselves in the tiny island and small market of Singapore? I would postulate at least four reasons.

9. First, Singapore’s pro-business environment and commitment to the rule of law give companies confidence to set up operations here. We have a well-regarded IP regime that shares many features and best practices with developed jurisdictions, while customised to our context where necessary.

10. The major review of our IP laws happened in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when we undertook a comprehensive review of our IP regime in preparation for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, which later provided the foundation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. At that time, we significantly strengthened patent protection for pharmaceutical products, and have consistently applied these protections since.

11. Our IP negotiator was Mr Daren Tang, who later became the CEO of Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, and now has been elected Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), demonstrating the leadership role that Singapore can play on the world stage in IP protection.

12. Second, we recognise the importance of human capital and invest in people. Our emphasis on continuing education and lifelong learning helps build a skilled and adaptable workforce. The government has also developed career conversion programmes to equip local talent with the skillsets relevant to the biopharmaceutical industry. Specifically, we implemented a Biomedical Manufacturing Career Conversion Programme, of which Roche is one of our industry partners.

13. Third, Singapore is well-connected to the rest of the world via our air and sea transport hubs, making us a natural choice for companies seeking a strategic location for their regional or global headquarters. You can fly in and out of Singapore easily and connect to various parts of the world. Our good digital connectivity is an extra plus. It is supported by a reliable network of 4G and 5G infrastructure, further ensures that businesses have the connectivity and access to technology needed to thrive in the digital age.

14. Finally, Singapore’s trade links are a major advantage. We currently have a network of 27 FTAs, which are complemented by other economic partnerships and agreements. These FTAs anchor our attractiveness as a global trade and commercial hub, and activate the flows of investment, talent, products, services, data and information across all our sea, air and telecommunications infrastructure.

15. All these help maintain critical connectivity between Singapore and our key markets even during uncertain times. Hence during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, airports became deserted, but production and trade continued to flow uninterrupted to and from Singapore. PSA did more and more container business during the whole pandemic.

Embracing emerging technologies

16. These are the traditional key success factors that continue to be what we build our competitiveness upon. But Singapore needs to develop new propositions and competitive strengths all the time. A key priority is to stay at the forefront of cutting edge innovations that have the potential to disrupt and transform entire industries.

17. For the healthcare industry, precision medicine is one such example. It promises to do a lot of good to patients. It can facilitate early diagnosis, optimise medication to reduce adverse drug reactions, and target clinical interventions to prevent disease progression. Possibilities are abundant. This is why Roche has invested heavily in precision medicine too.

18. However, like all major technological breakthroughs, there will be risks and downsides. I don’t think there is a country that has figured out how to finance high-cost precision medicine treatments. There can be potential abuse, such as organisations hiring based on genetic profiles, or couples testing for genetic traits of a foetus and then deciding whether to abort the foetus. There are important clinical, economic and moral aspects of precision medicine that we must consider carefully.

19. But by safeguarding against the downsides, we can better nurture and grow precision medicine in a way that can fulfil its potential. Singapore is therefore embarking on a comprehensive review of the field of precision medicine, to determine what should be encouraged or allowed in a responsible and sustainable manner. This includes establishing proper clinical governance, determining clinical and cost-effectiveness of potential treatments, and in time, developing appropriate healthcare financing policies and legislation. By taking a thorough and robust approach, we hope to be able to embrace precision medicine in a responsible and sustainable manner.

20. Roche is no stranger to precision medicine technology. Globally, you have invested significantly in the curation of high-quality, long-term patient data to drive precision medicine use cases. Last year, Roche entered a research collaboration with the Singapore Translational Cancer Consortium (STCC). Through this collaboration, Roche and STCC will sequence the cancer genomes of 5,000 Singapore patients, and use the data to develop a national clinico-genomic database. In time to come, doctors can use the database to make better cancer care decisions, which will help us make better use of cancer care resources and improve patient outcomes.

21. Looking ahead, I would like to extend an open invite to Roche to consider expanding its capabilities in Singapore to include areas such as the development, or even production, of molecular diagnostics and new therapeutic modalities like cell and gene therapy. As I mentioned, this is an area that Singapore has decided to embrace and to be at the forefront of.


22. The world has just emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. In the final analysis, we overcame the pandemic mostly because of the Government’s efforts to undertake measures to reduce the spread of the disease, and the pharmaceutical industry developing the vaccines and diagnostics against COVID-19. This continues to be the critical partnership to advance the health of humankind.

23. Roche’s contributions to healthcare have not only benefitted Singaporeans but have also enriched our collective understanding of medicine and health. To all the Roche employees, partners, as well as customers and clients gathered here today, I would like to thank you for 50 years of growing together with Singapore’s healthcare system, and for your dedication, innovation and unwavering commitment to advancing healthcare.

24. I hope the ties between Roche and Singapore will continue to grow ever closer and stronger. Thank you.

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