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Intellectual Property Accelerates Research and Innovation in Southeast Asia

Intellectual property has enabled unprecedented collaborations to innovate and speed up progress on hundreds of potential COVID-19 treatments, diagnostics and vaccines for the world. As we celebrate World Innovation Day on April 21 and World IP Day on April 26, we are reminded how valuable strong intellectual property laws are to addressing global challenges through innovation.

The value of IP in addressing challenges has been evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, almost 12.0 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been produced and delivered, and nearly 5 billion people worldwide have received at least one dose. Several Southeast Asian countries have some of the world’s highest vaccination rates, including Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

Maintaining and elevating IP rights advances the collaborations and partnerships needed to scale up vaccine production and find new solutions to ongoing barriers. Over the last year, Southeast Asia has seen innovative advancements resulting from renewed focus on intellectual property and public health.

On World IP Day and World Innovation Day, we celebrate the focused efforts of biopharmaceutical companies, governments and innovators across the region who pushed these great strides forward, including the following successes:

  • Innovators in Singapore researched and developed an experimental saliva test that can detect a COVID-19 infection in minutes with 97 percent accuracy in trials.
  • AstraZeneca Malaysia partnered with Sunway University to establish the first Health Innovation Hub in Malaysia, collaborating to provide a strategic platform for facilitating research and development and commercial collaborations with local stakeholders to bolster Malaysia’s innovation ecosystem.
  • The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) jumped to 9th place in the WTR’s 2021 IP Office Innovation Ranking, up from 24th in the previous year, making the Philippines the only developing country to have an IP office in the top 10 of 60 ranked offices worldwide.
  • Singapore’s national regulator of health products, the Health Sciences Authority, achieved the World Health Organization’s highest accreditation level in its assessment of 28 countries, the first WHO Member State to reach the benchmark. The impact will be felt across Southeast Asia, meaning that “HSA is recognized internationally as one of the most trusted and advanced regulators for medicines, contributing to public health outcomes in Singapore, the region and beyond,” said Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on the significant accomplishment.

Strong IP policies encourage economic growth and help countries build resilient health architecture. The biomedical innovation ecosystem in Singapore alone has grown nearly 600% in the last ten years, as the government increasingly prioritizes foreign investment, collaboration and research and development. Several global pharmaceutical companies including BioNTech SE, Sanofi, Merck and Thermo Fisher have announced investments in new clinical research centers and first-of-its kind vaccination hubs that aim to bolster treatment access for patients across Southeast Asia. These investments support jobs and local economies.

Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic economic regions in the world. It is vital that patients in the region have more effective health systems and that countries in the region support policies that facilitate access to treatments for everyone.

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