Bayer HealthCare extends partnerships in Singapore with a focus in cancer research
The company forges five new industry projects with National University of Singapore, NUHS, SingHealth and A*STAR’s Singapore Bioimaging Consortium.
Bayer HealthCare Singapore, a subsidiary of Germany-based Bayer AG, on Thursday announced an additional S$14.5 million worth of investment that will go into enhancing its expertise in qualifying research and development (R&D) activities in Singapore to improve early diagnosis and treatment outcomes of cancer patients, according to a Bayer report.
In partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS), National University Health System (NUHS), SingHealth and A*STAR’s Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), Bayer HealthCare will launch five new projects to investigate novel approaches to diagnose and treat cancers, including those that are highly prevalent in the region. The partnership will help to accelerate Bayer HealthCare’s drug discovery and development in Asia. The collaboration is also part of Bayer HealthCare’s S$20 million investment in joint research projects with Singapore-based universities, hospitals, research institutes and companies over six years. Bayer HealthCare will work closely with Singapore’s recently set-up Biomedical Sciences Industry Partnership Office (BMS IPO), as it expands its R&D activities in Singapore.
Mr. Beh Kian Teik, Director, Biomedical Sciences, Singapore Economic Development Board and Programme Director, Biomedical Sciences Industry Partnership Office, said, “Bayer HealthCare’s growing R&D presence here strongly attests to Singapore’s strengths as a leading partner to develop new therapies for Asia. Singapore is enhancing its integrated research network to grow R&D partnerships with companies.”
Dr. Axel Bouchon, Country Representative Bayer HealthCare Singapore said, “Singapore has made significant progress in translational and clinical research by offering an experienced team of study coordinators and investigators in clinical research. Researchers are able to access laboratory facilities, scientific infrastructure and specialised services, allowing companies to significantly accelerate development timelines. In Singapore, we can also gather clinical insights into the disease biology of key ethnic groups in Asia.”
A pressing need for novel approaches to Asian-prevalent cancers
In 2002, Asia had the largest number of cancer deaths in the world, with a total of more than 3.3 million deaths. In Singapore, cancer is the number one leading cause of death, causing 29.3% of deaths in 2009. Worse still, deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030. There is therefore a pressing need for scientific breakthroughs to diagnose and treat cancer effectively.
One key approach to address this is to cooperate with external partners in science and industry who have specialised knowledge and are willing to take up the challenges in R&D. With its first collaboration with the NUS to profile oncology drugs in an Asian-specific context well underway since September 2008, Bayer HealthCare is now working with a broader team of Singapore institutions on the following projects:
- National University of Singapore (NUS) and the National University Health System (NUHS): To access novel biomarkers in colorectal cancer in an innovative study design called paired biopsy study.
- A*STAR’s Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC): To develop novel platforms for non-invasive imaging of tumours to study the role of metabolism in cancer and identify potential agents for therapy.
- SingHealth: To profile Bayer HealthCare’s development compounds in innovative in vivo models with high relevance for the clinic, leading to the identification of key markers, pathways and targets determining the group of patients which have the highest chance to benefit from therapy. This is one of the three projects undertaken by Bayer HealthCare and SingHealth, along with the development of new tumor-specific tracers in exploratory clinical Proof of Concept studies.
Prof. Martin Schneider, Head of Global Therapeutic Research, Bayer HealthCare said: “The collaborations in Singapore will improve our understanding of molecular mechanisms of cancers with a high prevalence in Asia, such as hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cancer and help us to define differences in pathway activation by our development candidates comparing Asian and Caucasian populations.”
Dr. Ludger Dinkelborg, Head of Therapeutic Research Group Diagnostic Imaging, Bayer HealthCare said: “We have only recently begun to understand the molecular basis of tumor-specific intermediary metabolism. Addressing these specific pathways with imaging technologies such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) might help to diagnose cancer earlier and to better characterise the disease, leading to a better therapeutic outcome for our patients.”
Laying the groundwork for innovative medicines
Bayer HealthCare has for many years actively invested in R&D to lay the groundwork for a sustainable business and to provide patients with earlier access to innovative medicines. This is done through increasing partnerships with regional and local institutions and academia, as well as increasing the number of clinical trial activities.
This integrated R&D strategy has brought about robust growth with a ten-fold increase in the number of clinical activities conducted in the region in the last five years, from six trials in 2005 to about 50 trials today. In Singapore, the number of clinical trials sponsored by Bayer HealthCare has doubled year-on-year from two in 2006 to 15 in 2009, with an additional four trials being started this year.