Qiagen’s new Service Solutions Center in Singapore will expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, where the company is betting it will see immense demand for diagnostics in the coming years.
“Asia today is Qiagen’s fastest growing market, with Singapore taking significant market share,” the company said in a statement.
Following the SARS and avian flu outbreaks in the region in recent years, Asian governments are more willing to invest in R&D and in improving the region’s health infrastructure, industry observers have noted. In turn, diagnostic companies like Roche and Quest have recognized the Asia-Pacific region as a hotspot for investing in the in vitro diagnostics market, and have set up shop there.
Qiagen is the latest to create an Asia-Pacific center. According to the company, the Asia-Pacific center completes the company’s global Service Solution Network, which includes facilities in Valencia, Calif.; Germantown, Md.; Hilden, Germany; Crawley, UK; Paris; and Tokyo.
One barrier to the adoption of diagnostic tests in the Asia-Pacific region is the lack of health insurance. However, according to Qiagen, one of the reasons the company decided to open a service facility in the region is because the “healthcare budgets are growing and so are the government programs for certain diseases like HIV, [tuberculosis], and cancer prevention.
“We see a rapidly expanding private healthcare market, which employs more advanced … diagnostics products,” A Qiagen spokesperson told Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week.
The Singapore center is currently staffed with more than 50 Qiagen employees, who will also handle customer care and technical service issues and will be proficient in regional languages, including Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, and English.
“Molecular testing will continue to play a more vital role here than anywhere else in the world as containment, and therefore testing, is the most important weapon against the spread of deadly diseases.”
In December, Qiagen opened DX Assay in Singapore, a joint venture with BioOne Capital that develops molecular diagnostic tests. The Qiagen spokesperson said the company is currently developing new respiratory virus panels and a new range of multiplex panels specifically for the Asian market.
Dx Assay and other Qiagen centers “will develop new molecular diagnostics for infectious and genetic diseases,” the Qiagen spokesperson said. “At this point we don’t want to specify which assays will be developed by Dx Assay.”
Additionally, last month the Singapore Ministry of Health awarded an exclusive contract to Qiagen to supply sample-preparation solutions and molecular test kits for detecting Influenza H5N1 viruses. It is likely the service center will also market tests for other infectious and genetic diseases impacting the region.
“The new center will further increase the company’s responsiveness to the information and service requirements of customers in research, applied testing, pharma, and molecular diagnostics in the entire Asian-Pacific region including Australia, allowing them to access the company’s services faster, more conveniently, and more efficiently,” Qiagen said in a statement last week announcing the opening of the Singapore center.
According to the spokesperson, Qiagen sees “immense opportunities in Asia for diagnostic testing, given the strong growth developments in the region.”
Although the Asia-Pacific region accounts for only 2 percent of global IVD sales, tests for infectious diseases comprise 70 percent of the types of tests sold in the region. Since Singapore is leading the emerging diagnostics market in Asia, Qiagen’s exclusive contract from the Singapore Ministry of Health to develop diagnostics for avian flu will likely play a key role in the company’s growth in that country.
In a statement, Aw Kah Peng, assistant managing director of the Singapore Economic Development Board, said Singapore plans to “continue to invest in translational research capabilities, particularly in the area of diagnostics, to further sharpen Singapore's innovative approach towards biomedical research and affordable healthcare.”
Outside of Singapore, Qiagen sees other opportunities for expansion. The company began expanding into the Asia-Pacific region in 2005, and currently has offices in China, Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, which collectively employ more than 370 people.
Of course, Qiagen isn’t the only diagnostics shop that is trying to get a slice of Asia’s booming markets. Quest Diagnostics recently opened a shop in India, and expects the region to contribute significantly to its international revenues in the next five years (see related story, this issue).
In addition, industry leader Roche Diagnostics has divisions in 14 Asia-Pacific countries, including its regional headquarters in Singapore. Roche Diagnostics – Asia Pacific/Singapore markets several products for infectious diseases.
“Asia is a region that has been shaken by outbreaks of infectious diseases such as SARS and avian flu and has felt the economic impact of such catastrophes,” the Qiagen spokesperson said.
In 2003, the World Health Organization reported that avian flu had killed more than 60 people in East Asian countries; as of 2006 the disease has caused as many as 130 deaths worldwide. And according to a World Bank estimate, the SARS outbreak in East Asia, which resulted in 800 deaths, shed around 2 percent from the region’s gross domestic product in the second quarter of 2003.
Given this toll, “molecular testing will continue to play a more vital role here than anywhere else in the world as containment, and therefore testing, is the most important weapon against the spread of deadly diseases,” the Qiagen spokesperson said.