More stimulation from govt towards R&D in healthcare industry is needed to take advantage of opportunity arising from pandemic
by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
BIONTECH SE’s expansion into Singapore will not affect Malaysia’s ability in attracting investments for the healthcare sector, backed by incentives provided by the government.
Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia (PhAMA) president Chin Keat Chyuan said industry players are optimistic that the conducive healthcare environment in Malaysia is beneficial for multinational corporations to consider investing in many different aspects of the sector.
“This is especially with the tax incentives provided for pharmaceutical manufacturing companies and the government’s initiative to reform investment policy, as well as enhancing investment climate.
“With 39 pharmaceutical firms including Pfizer (M) Sdn Bhd, Johnson & Johnson Sdn Bhd and AstraZeneca Sdn Bhd, the association remains committed to partnering the government to position the country as a strong healthcare investment destination in South-East Asia,” he said.
German biotechnology company BioNTech recently announced its plan to establish a regional centre and a new factory for its vaccines in Singapore to strengthen its presence and supply chain in the Asian region.
The drugmaker partnered Pfizer Inc to make one of the most in demand Covid-19 vaccines, which has a 95% efficacy rate and the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved for teenagers between 12 and 15 years old.
The Singapore facility will address the potential threats of the pandemic in SouthEast Asia as it will increase its global supply capacity of product candidates, including beyond vaccines, which are based on messenger RNA technology.
On the other hand, Universiti Kuala Lumpur Business School economic analyst Assoc Prof Dr Aimi Zulhazmi Abdul Rashid said Malaysia should tap into Asia’s raw material supplies and logistics in the vaccine production market.
“This would boost the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, as well as an opportunity amid the pandemic which should be seized,” he said.
He added that more stimulation from the government towards research and development (R&D) in the healthcare industry is needed to take advantage of the opportunity arising from the predicament.
“Malaysia needs to put better initiatives than the current programme to attract such pharmaceutical multinationals like BioNTech, Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and GlaxoSmithKline plc to our shores.
“Besides that, the government must also encourage more Malaysian R&D companies in the pharmaceutical industry to take advantage of the boom as regional cooperation is a strategic move, especially with other Asean countries, to attract more global players,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.
Observing the progress of the healthcare industry in the region, Aimi Zulhazmi said BioNTech’s move in choosing Singapore to establish its first factory outside Europe is not a surprise to industry players as it is being complemented with economic values.
“It is due to Singapore’s advancement and investment incentives to attract pharmaceutical companies over the years.
“Singapore has established excellent logistic and distribution infrastructures , which play key roles in the decision-making.
“There are currently 55 pharmaceutical companies in the republic, which speaks about the significant size of the industry there.”
He added that while it may seem like a lost opportunity, there is still room for Malaysia to chime in, given the surging demand for the healthcare industry to further expand.
“If we cannot directly compete with Singapore, which is the regional leader in the pharmaceutical industry, Malaysia should join to collaborate in the supply chain of the industry.
“It is not a loss for Malaysia as the pharmaceutical industry is on a mega expansion globally due to the presence of the pandemic, which will be around for quite some time.
“In this aspect, the government may look from the electronics and electronics industry aspect with regard to the semiconductors demand, such as the supply of raw materials which are mostly sourced from Malaysia,” he said.
He added that industry players in Malaysia have to adopt the mindset of the multinational pharmaceutical companies and plan their business strategies from the regional perspective, as well as drawing on the strength of the country’s resources.