BAYER HealthCare is joining forces with four public organisations here to fight cancer in its biggest research investment in Singapore. About $14.5 million will be channeled into five research projects over the next three years that will seek ways to detect cancers earlier and improve treatment outcomes for existing patients. This is on top of the $3.5 million that the company poured in back in 2008.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore, National University Health System, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and SingHealth will carry out the investigations. They will be aided by the recently set-up Biomedical Sciences Industry Partnership Office, which helps biomedical companies collaborate with multiple Singapore agencies.
The strong research and development (R&D) capabilities in Singapore is the key reason for the pharmaceutical giant’s hefty investment. “Researchers are able to access laboratory facilities, scientific infrastructure and specialised services,” said Dr Axel Bouchon, country representative for Bayer HealthCare Singapore. He added that the cultural diversity here also helps scientists gather data on how diseases affect Chinese, Malays and Indians differently.
Cancers prevalent among Asians, such as gastric and liver cancer, will be studied closely. One of the projects will also look at the use of new agents in medical scans to help identify cancer cells more accurately. “This will help to reduce the number of false positive cancer diagnoses, which will reduce patients’ anxiety and eliminate the need for further invasive and potentially costly tests,” said SingHealth’s deputy chief executive Soo Khee Chee, who is also the director of the National Cancer Centre Singapore.
In Singapore, cancer is the leading cause of death, with 29.3 per cent dying of cancer last year. Cancer is set to kill 12 million people worldwide by 2030, according to projections by the World Health Organisation.