The latest pharma and healthcare news from Southeast Asia, including the proposed healthcare programs of Thailand’s political parties for the upcoming election; Singapore’s approval of Pfizer’s 20-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; the collaboration between Amgen and NSG BioLabs; Indonesian startup Etana’s new round of financing and Pharmaniaga’s financial woes.

Thailand develops AI-based assessment tool for ischemic stroke (BioSpectrum Asia)

A research team from the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand has jointly developed AICute, an innovative programme to assess the chance of stroke caused by heart disease (Ischemic Stroke), aimed at helping hospitals that lack cardiologists to enhance the effectiveness of stroke treatment, reduce congestion in hospitals and medical schools.

Thailand has approximately 250,000 patients suffering from strokes each year, or one stroke for every 2 minutes.


Parties offering voters range of cures for Thailand’s ailing public health system (Thai PBS World)

While Thais may be familiar with overcrowded state hospitals, that familiarity should not be grounds for dismissing political parties’ policies on public health in campaigning for the May 14 election. What are political parties promising?

The Pheu Thai Party, whose predecessor Thai Rak Thai introduced universal healthcare in Thailand with the 30 baht-per-medical-visit scheme 22 years ago, has promised to ensure people can be treated at any hospital or clinic by just showing their national ID card.

The Thai Sang Thai Party is promoting a “30 baht-Plus” scheme in pursuit of what it calls a well-being society. The 30 baht-Plus concept would integrate advanced technology into public health, with artificial intelligence leveraged to serve as a “personal mobile doctor”. Patients who need to consult a medic could talk to the Mobile Doctor via the ChatGPT chatbot.


Singapore gives nod to Pfizer’s Pneumococcal 20-valent conjugate vaccine for adults (BioSpectrum Asia)

Pfizer has announced that the Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has approved its 20-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV20) that protects against invasive pneumococcal disease and pneumonia caused by 20 Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) serotypes.

Marketed under the brand name APEXXNAR, this vaccine is approved for active immunisation for individuals aged 18 years and older, advancing the company’s ongoing commitment to help prevent certain potentially-serious infectious respiratory diseases.


IHH Healthcare invests in Singapore-based digital mental health startup Intellect (BioSpectrum Asia)

IHH Healthcare has invested in the Singapore-based digital mental health startup, Intellect, to further expand its end-to-end mental health services, including telehealth coaching, clinical therapy, psychiatry, self-guided cognitive behavioural therapy-based programmes, urgent distress support, and mental health screening.

The investment will accelerate Intellect’s growth across the region. Since it was founded in 2019, Intellect has grown exponentially in recent years to serve more than 3 million users in over 20 countries on its platform, including Malaysia, Singapore, India and Hong Kong.


Amgen and NSG Biolabs to boost the biotech startup’s capabilities in Southeast Asia (BioSpectrum Asia)

Amgen and NSG BioLabs, Singapore’s largest biotech, have collaberated to boost the biotech start-up ecosystem in South-East Asia, starting with Singapore.

Amgen’s Singapore Manufacturing facility held the novel initiative to reward the emerging start-ups on 15 March, in Singapore. Singapore Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Alvin Tan graced the event. NSG BioLabs has helped startups achieve breakthroughs, with over SGD 100 million in funds raised, major partnerships, and new product launches since 2020.


Singapore: New Bill to be tabled in 2023 to enable, safeguard patient data sharing across healthcare providers (The Star)

A new Bill will be tabled in the second half of 2023 to better safeguard the sharing of patient information across different healthcare providers to pave the way for Singapore’s switch to a new healthcare model based on prevention.

Announced in 2022, the Health Information Bill will also seek to enable the collection of patients’ selected health data from healthcare providers, and to allow healthcare providers to share health and administrative data with one another for specific purposes.


Singapore to set up dedicated centre for public health and forward planning team to prepare for future pandemics (CNA)

A dedicated centre for public health as well as a team that will anticipate and monitor risks will be set up to better prepare Singapore for the next pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (Mar 20). This comes after a white paper, released earlier this month, detailed the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response and identified areas where it could have done better.


Indonesian startup Etana secures financing to strengthen oncology portfolio (BioSpectrum Asia)

PT Etana Biotechnologies Indonesia (Etana), an Indonesian biopharmaceutical startup, has secured a new round of investment led by DEG followed by Yunfeng Capital, HighLight Capital and East Ventures.

This round of financing will be used for further strengthening the company’s pipeline and portfolio especially in oncology area. Currently, Etana focuses on local biopharmaceutical production for mRNA platforms, proteins and monoclonal antibodies. The company produced a COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA platform, which received an Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) from the Indonesian Food and Drug Authority (BPOM), a halal provision from the Indonesian Ulema Council’s (MUI) LPOM and a halal certificate from the Halal Product Assurance Agency (BPJPH) of the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs.


Indonesia’s health reform faces tough year (The Jakarta Post)

Ongoing efforts to reform Indonesia’s healthcare system following the COVID-19 pandemic could face major hurdles this year, with the threat of a looming global recession and the 2024 presidential election getting closer, the Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI) has warned in a report.

The report, which was published on Feb. 23 predicted that the reform of Indonesia’s healthcare system would slow down in 2023 as Indonesia enters the political year and the government focuses its funding on the elections and other major unfinished infrastructure projects, including the development of the new capital.


Malaysian Genomics offers world’s first DNA-driven fertility test (BioSpectrum Asia)

Malaysian Genomics Resource Centre Berhad has announced that the Group has signed a strategic collaboration agreement with Divine Genes Sdn Bhd to collaborate on business opportunities in relation to the improvement and international distribution of genetic tests for reproductive health. Divine Genes is an investment holding company with businesses in pharmaceutical product distribution, financial consultancy services as well as general merchandise and trading.

Under the strategic collaboration, Divine Genes’ genetic test for reproductive health will be added to Malaysian Genomics’ genetic test portfolio, which will market and distribute these tests in Malaysia and overseas. Both parties will also cooperate in improving the product.


Pharmaniaga’s financial woes spark concern over medicine supplies (Free Malaysia Today)

The main association representing pharmaceutical companies in Malaysia has sounded the alarm over Pharmaniaga Bhd’s financial woes, saying it could affect patients’ access to medicines if not quickly resolved.

The Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia’s (PhAMA) executive director Chan Li Jin said Pharmaniaga’s Practice Note 17 (PN17) classification for financially distressed companies had led to “uncertainty and anxiety” among medicine suppliers.


Asia’s biggest hospital operator offers on-demand coronavirus testing in Malaysia (Reuters)

Asia’s largest private healthcare group IHH Healthcare has begun offering on-demand testing for the new coronavirus at its hospitals in Malaysia. The group rolled out its diagnostic services in Malaysia and Singapore “so that public hospitals have the bandwidth to continue prioritising the treatment of infected patients,” managing director and Chief Executive Kevin Loh said in an email.