The Medical Technology sector has been identified as a key growth area for Singapore’s future economy. The growth of our local corporate enterprise is pivotal to Singapore’s plans to be the regional MedTech hub. However, there have been few local MedTech startup successes. Why is the road to market so difficult, and what can we do to improve the odds? Join us as we bring together entrepreneurs and industry veterans from the MedTech startup ecosystem in this panel discussion. We will discuss the opportunities and challenges that local MedTech startups face, and what is needed to build a vibrant startup ecosystem in Singapore.
Despite their lofty aspirations, the panelists have remained grounded in their product design. They repeatedly emphasized the pragmatism and necessity of understanding market demands, and tailoring the products according to customer feedback. While marketing and selling diagnostic chips for detecting individual strains of influenza virus, Dr Tan realized through conversations with her clients the value of a rapid diagnostic kit that could identify a range of influenza viruses agnostically, which led to one of the flagship products of Veredus, VereFlu™.
Similarly, Dr Rappel’s needs-driven innovation was a result of his frequent interactions with the surgeons and an intimate perspective of the clinical workflow as he was embedded in the hospital, right where his target clientele was. Dr Rappel also cautioned scientists to watch out for the perfectionist in them because neverending improvements could delay product launch, and thus deprive startups of the much-needed early revenue.To propel local medtech and health tech ecosystem, the panelists encouraged investors to take on higher risk appetites as such companies either have inherently long gestation times, or are exploring uncharted territories. While these risk factors are not trivial, investors should also appraise the potentially high reward (both financial and social) when the company succeeds and avoid benchmarking against established investments with more guaranteed returns.
Undoubtedly, entrepreneurship is not for everyone, and “it is not a rational choice,” said Mr Roy. Nonetheless, Dr Rappel urged everyone to give entrepreneurship a try at least once in their lifetime. Given the right combination of grit, innovative thinking and “fire”, as Dr Tan put it, potential entrepreneurs-to-be can be nurtured with the right mentorship and environment – one with freedom to explore ideas, and a flat hierarchy.
Dr Mann remarked how the panelists’ journeys vary from those seen in Silicon Valley, the mecca of startups, underscoring the importance of charting one’s own entrepreneurial journey in the existing environment for success.
Following the panel discussion and a lively Q&A session, participants were invited to a networking session with refreshments courtesy of the sponsors.
6:30 – 7:00 pm: Registration
7:00 – 7:05 pm: Welcome address by BCS President, Dr. Siang Yun Ang
7:05 – 7:10 pm: Introduction to Morgan Lewis Stamford by Managing Partner, Mrs Suet-Fern Lee
7:10 – 7:15 pm: Introduction to A*StartCentral by DxD Hub CEO, Dr. Sidney Yee
7:15 – 8:10 pm: Speaker Introductions & Panel Discussion
8:10 – 8:30 pm: Q&A
8:30 – 9:30 pm: Networking reception with light refreshments
James K. Rappel, Ph.D.
CEO & Co-founder, Digital Surgicals Pte Ltd
Note: Ms Kareen Looi, CEO of Pedra Technology and Mr Peter Cheng, CTO of Zicom MedTacc Pte Ltd, are unable to join this panel discussion due to scheduling conflicts.
Jeffry S. Mann, Ph.D., J.D.
Jeffry S. Mann is Partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. He counsels clients on strategically managing their intellectual property assets. His practice encompasses pharmaceuticals, biosimilars, functionalized polymers, medical devices and implants, fuel cells, hydrogen and ion generators, laboratory equipment, diagnostics, bioremediation, separations, catalysis, biotechnology, materials, and coatings. He is Co-Chair of the Firm’s Global Life Sciences Interdisciplinary Group, and Leader of the San Francisco Intellectual Property Practice Group. He is named inventor on two US patents covering biodegradable drug delivery vehicles for polymeric contrast media. Jeffry has also authored or co-authored 27 peer-reviewed articles and two book chapters in the areas of organic synthesis, contrast media, and diagnostic medical imaging. He frequently speaks on current topics in US Patent Law, and US and international IP strategies in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and is the author of recent articles on the new biosimilars regime in the United States.
Nawal Roy is the founder and CEO of Holmusk – a global digital health and data analytic platform. He is also co-founder of Galen Growth Asia – an independent organisation which aims to catalyse the development of Asia’s HealthTech ecosystem, and Board of director of HearX Group – a leading healthcare startup in South Africa. He has deep operating experience in North America, Asia, Middle East, Europe and South Africa in financial and healthcare sector. He has significant P&L and operations experience, coupled with 10 plus in top-tier consulting with Csuite globally. Nawal is member of Steering Committee for Valuebased Health Care at World Economic Forum. Before Holmusk, he was founder and CEO of fintech ventures at Rocket Internet. Before that he was a Junior Partner at McKinsey & Company Singapore office. He has significant experience across a breadth of functions such as strategy, corporate finance and operations. Nawal has been actively supporting and mentoring social entrepreneurs in USA, Singapore and India. He is an Advisor and Mentor for Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneur (YSE) program. Nawal is one of the Founders of PRMIA, an international global association with members in more than 100 countries. He has Masters degrees from both the USA (M.A in Economics and M.S in Quantitative Finance) and India (MA in Economics).
Rosemary Tan, Ph.D.
Dr Rosemary Tan founded Veredus Laboratories Pte Ltd in 2004. Veredus is a medical diagnostics company engaged in development, commercialization and manufacture of diagnostic assays for infectious diseases. Veredus won the Red Herring Top 100 Private Companies in Asia Award and the Asian Innovation Award (Gold) from the Wall Street Journal Asia in 2006; the Red Herring Global 100 award in 2007, and the BioSpectrum Editor’s Choice Emerging MedTech Company award in 2008. Dr Tan was awarded the Outstanding Science Alumni Award from NUS in 2006. She is currently a member of Biotechnology Advisory Committee for School of Life Sciences & Chemical Technology, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and a member in the National Productivity and Continuing Education Committee and the Committee of the Future Economy.
James K. Rappel, Ph.D.
James Kolenchery Rappel is the CEO and co-founder of Digital Surgicals Pte Ltd, a MedTech startup with a mission to substantially increase the access to surgical cure worldwide through advanced surgical microscopes and efficient surgical training. He has been working very closely with surgeons for the past two decades understanding their pain points in great detail, designing solutions using advanced technology in collaboration with them and successfully implementing them. The products that he created have found acceptance worldwide in prominent places such as the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. He started his career at National University of Singapore as a researcher, and subsequently moved to Johns Hopkins Singapore to setup Digital Medicine Lab in collaboration with NUH. It was moved to NUH for closer collaboration with the surgeons prior to founding Digital Surgicals that draws heavily from his Ph.D. work. His greatest passion is to empower children with integrity, hope, perseverance and above all love.