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Analysis: IVD innovation accelerates in Asia

APACMed’s Fredrik Nyberg looks at how local and multinational IVD companies are developing novel solutions for Asia’s unique needs.

The in vitro diagnostics (IVD) industry plays a crucial role in healthcare systems around the world, and Asia is no exception. As the region develops, IVD companies of all types are working to bring equipment and build capacity in its dynamic and fast-growing markets. This often requires innovative approaches to product development, market access, and commercial excellence. Both local and multinational IVD companies are developing novel solutions for Asia’s unique needs.

These needs run the gamut from the most cutting-edge diagnostic services to the most routine tests. As a large region with a deep base of consumers in all socioeconomic strata, Asia presents huge opportunities for most IVD segments. While the worldwide IVD market grew by only 5% in 2016, the APAC IVD market expanded by over 14% in that same timeframe, according to estimates from Boston Biomedical Consultants (BBC), an IVD-focused advisory practice at QuintilesIMS.

“Asia has been a primary catalyst of growth for the worldwide IVD market,” says Greg Stutman, BBC’s director of global solutions. “It will remain a key focus for both MNCs and domestic companies in most IVD segments.”

Yet capturing this growth will not necessarily be easy. In Asia’s emerging markets, healthcare systems often suffer from inadequate financing, underdeveloped infrastructure, and capacity gaps at both regulatory and provider organisations. Asia’s more developed markets do not usually have the same constraints, but many face pressure from ageing populations and changing epidemiological trends. These trends create demand for new types of diagnostic tests and business models, often tailored specifically to individual countries and cultures.

At APACMed, the only regional association dedicated to providing a unified voice for the medical technology industry in Asia Pacific, we provide a platform to help stakeholders address these challenges and achieve their shared mission of improving standards of care for patients. From this vantage, we see a range of innovative products and business models gaining ground in Asia’s IVD sector.

New technologies power some of these innovations. Lab automation tools, for example, are bringing efficiencies to regions suffering from workforce shortages and skills gaps. Point-of-care diagnostics are increasing access to testing in remote areas. And improvements in connectivity are ensuring that the data from all these technologies are collected and analysed, opening new possibilities for medical research and population health management.

Localisation will be key to ensuring that these new technologies are effectively deployed in Asia. At last year’s Asia Pacific MedTech Forum, leading medtech executives spoke about the importance of matching products to local needs. Molecular tests, for example, may need to take into account the unique genotypic profile of Asian populations. Diagnostic services may need to be recalibrated to meet the price points of low-resource settings.

“Asia provides great opportunities for IVD product localisation,” says Sidney Yee, CEO of the Diagnostics Development Hub in Singapore, a government-funded programme that translates local IP into market-ready diagnostics. “Many of the core technologies and business models have already been validated, and just need to be differentiated to meet local needs.”

Asia is also producing more of its own IVD products and services, thanks to emerging r&d ecosystems. Countries such as China, Japan and Singapore are going beyond localisation and playing a growing role in breakthrough innovation. Many are becoming fertile sources of capital for investment in global r&d initiatives.

One area of focus is cancer diagnostics, a field that witnessed substantial investment and m&a activity in the past year. Asian investors were at the table in many of the most high-profile deals. In March, China’s Tencent participated in a US$900 million funding round of Grail, an American company working on novel methods for diagnosing cancer from blood samples. In May, Japan’s Softbank led a US$360 million investment in Guardant Health, which is working on similar technologies. And in July, Japan’s Konica Minolta announced plans to buy Ambry Genetics, another cancer screening company, for US$889 million.

Other innovations are rooted in novel partnerships between IVD companies and other stakeholders. A few diagnostics companies, for example, are partnering with insurers to distribute DNA testing kits for policyholders. By encouraging early detection of disease and disease risks, partnerships like these could improve health outcomes for individuals and thus reduce claims costs for insurers – a win for everyone. Partnerships between IVD companies and governments, NGOs, providers, and even technology firms can provide similar opportunities.

“All the main players are working independently to improve access to diagnostics in Asia,” says Jozi Habijanic, head of strategic development Asia Pacific at Roche Diagnostics. “But we still need more collaboration between manufacturers and other industry stakeholders.”

Improving the state of IVD availability will bring major benefits to Asia’s healthcare systems. Diagnostic services typically account for only 2% of total healthcare spending, but are said to influence over 60% of medical decisions. While the exact numbers vary significantly between countries, the bottom line is that quality diagnostics are key to ensuring that patients receive timely and correct diagnoses.

As our annual Asia Pacific MedTech Forum approaches, APACMed looks forward to continuing the dialogue about the value of innovation for healthcare systems in Asia. Our members are making great progress in using new technologies and business models to improve the quality of IVD services in the region, however there is still a lot of work to be done.

Fredrik Nyberg is chief executive officer of the Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed). Founded in 2014, it is the first and only regional association to provide a unified voice for the medical technology industry in Asia Pacific.

For details of the Asia Pacific MedTech Forum, click here.

 

Posted on: 24/08/2017 UTC+08:00


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