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2023-06-05| Asia-Pacific

2023 International Healthcare Week: Showcasing Emerging Competencies of Hong Kong’s Biomedical Industry

by Richard Chau
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As one of the leading biomedical research centers in Greater China and the largest biotech fundraising hub in the Asia-Pacific region (second largest in the world, after the US), Hong Kong is undoubtedly one of the prime cities in Asia’s biopharmaceutical industry. The second edition of the International Healthcare Week, organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), which just concluded on May 31, not only brought together healthcare leaders and industry elites from different sectors in the region, but also highlighted Hong Kong’s strategic role as a hub for innovation and investment in the healthcare industry in Asia.

This year’s International Healthcare Week not only featured a number of biotech-related seminars and business matching meetings, but also two flagship events: the 3rd Asia Summit on Global Health (ASGH), co-organized by the Hong Kong Government and the HKTDC on May 17 and 18, together with the 14th Hong Kong International Medical and Healthcare Fair (Medical Fair), held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from May 16 to 18. 

GeneOnline’s editorial team also participated in these two premier events to keep abreast of the latest developments in the biomedical industry in Hong Kong and network with exhibitors from Hong Kong, China and around the world. 

Related article: Fifth Wave of COVID-19 Devastates Hong Kong – How Next-Generation Sequencing Can Help with Latest Outbreak

Connecting Global Industry Experts and Showcasing Achievements in Industry-Academia-Research Collaboration

With the theme of “Unleash the Power of Smart Health”, this year’s Medical Fair was the first large-scale in-person biotech event in Hong Kong after dropping COVID-related restrictions. Over 300 companies from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan, the United States and Canada participated in the event, covering a wide range of industries including disease detection, medical devices, biotechnology, smart healthcare, rehabilitation and elderly care products. The fair welcomed over 10,000 visitors from 56 countries and regions. In addition, more than 300 one-on-one deal-making sessions and over 600 business-matching meetings were also arranged to help participants seize business opportunities.

In recent years, the Hong Kong Government has been actively promoting “industry-academia-research” collaboration, allowing enterprises, universities, and research institutions to work together and promote technological innovation. Apart from the participation of top universities such as the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Medical Fair also included many biotech start-ups supported by local universities or spun off from university research projects, presenting their R&D achievements related to the biomedical and healthcare industry. The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP) also set up a thematic pavilion at the event where 30 companies showcased their innovative products and technologies. 

On the first day of the Fair (May 16), the HKMHDIA Medical Fair Forum 2023 was held in parallel with the event. A number of Hong Kong and international industry leaders were invited to share their views on the latest medical technologies and investment opportunities in Hong Kong’s biotech and healthcare sectors under the theme of “Hong Kong as the International MedTech Hub.”

The 3-day in-person Medical Fair welcomed over 10,000 visitors from 56 countries and regions
Hopebotics, a soft wearable robotic device developed by members of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Surgery in CUHK, is designed to help stroke patients improve their motor skills.

ASGH 2023: Reimagining the Future of Healthcare

This year, the first day of ASGH was held in-person at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), and the second day took place entirely online. With the theme of “Reimagining the Future of Healthcare”, the Summit featured more than 90 speakers from 20 countries and regions, including government representatives, international medical experts and scholars, investors, and business leaders, sharing their valuable experiences and latest developments in the fields of public health, medical technology and healthcare investment, and exploring the prospects and business opportunities of the healthcare industry.

The flagship event was also complemented by thematic sessions and panel discussions that delved into various aspects of the medical and healthcare industry, including biomedical technology, climate change and health, integration of Chinese and Western medicine, population aging, and mental health.

In addition to the opening remarks by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mr. John Lee, and Secretary for Health, Mr. Lo Chung-mau, the first day of the Summit also included a prerecorded speech by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. During his speech, the WHO chief mentioned that although COVID-19 was no longer a “global health emergency”, the world could still face threats from more devastating pathogens in the future. In order to keep the world safer against emergencies of all kinds, WHO has proposed a framework for governance, fundraising, management systems and tools, and is actively supporting countries to collaborate in the fight against diseases. Countries need to break out of the vicious cycle of fear and ignorance and work together to build a new generation of equity, inclusion, and coherence.

Pre-recorded speech by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

Insights and Visions for Global Healthcare Transformation

The first-day “Plenary Session: Reimagining the Future of Healthcare” invited Sir Jonathan Symonds, CBE, Chair, GSK as one of the speakers. He said: “When COVID struck, the world didn’t collaborate in the way that it should have. There will be another COVID. We cannot operate in the same way as we did. We must tackle global problems globally.” Another speaker, Mr. Tatsuo Yasunaga, Chair of the Board of Directors of Mitsui & Co., Ltd, noted: “In implementing value-based healthcare, we try to achieve both clinical outcome improvement and cost savings. We expect to achieve the first goal through new drug and medical device developments and health risk management. We are also moving towards personalized healthcare to bridge the gap between medical care and prevention.”

In the “Plenary Talk: The Future of Healthcare as Enabled by Technology and AI”, Dr. Gerald L. Chan, Co-founder and CEO of Morningside Group, a venture capital firm, said that both demand and costs for healthcare are skyrocketing, and human life expectancy is increasing. These factors have aggravated the pressure on the global healthcare system. In the face of this imbalance between supply and demand, the only way to bridge the gap is to use scalable technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence. Professor Dennis Lo, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, pointed out that in order for Hong Kong to successfully develop into an international innovation and technology hub, the emphasis must shift from scientific literature to patenting, commercializing research, and facilitating the establishment of more start-up companies.

Fostering Collaboration and Investment Through ASGH Deal-Making and Exhibition

The first day of ASGH also featured the InnoHealth Showcase and live project pitching sessions at HKCEC, highlighting innovative projects and solutions from more than 140 healthcare-related companies. Among them, 50 innovative start-ups and projects are led by leading local universities and many of which won multiple awards at this year’s Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions.

Meanwhile, ASGH Deal-Making was held at the same venue to facilitate networking between biomedical start-ups and investors from around the world in the areas of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, disease diagnosis, smart medicine, and community health and wellness.

ASGH Deal-Making Session on the first day of the Summit

GeneOnline’s Interview With CEO of Shionogi

GeneOnline’s editorial team attended the Summit and Medical Fair in Hong Kong, where they not only gained insights into the latest developments in the biomedical industry in Hong Kong, but also exchanged ideas and explored future collaboration opportunities with exhibitors from Hong Kong, China and other parts of the world. The team also had the honor to have an interview with one of the guest speakers at the Summit, Dr. Isao Teshirogi, President and CEO of Shionogi & Co., Ltd.

During the interview, he mentioned the need for Shionogi, a company that focuses on drugs for infectious diseases, to be more committed to global health issues. While research and development of new drugs is undoubtedly one of the top priorities, the challenge of making the distribution of pharmaceutical products more equitable, more efficient and more affordable is also an important issue that needs to be addressed amongst the society.

Dr. Teshirogi also stated that his participation in the ASGH was not only made possible by the visit of Dr. Peter Lam, Chairman of HKTDC, to Shionogi in Japan last year, but also because of the development potential of Hong Kong, Greater China and the entire Asia-Pacific region. He stressed that Asia is undoubtedly one of the most influential regions in the world. With the world’s population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 or 2060, the growth would be driven primarily by Asia and Africa. “Working with the Asian Society, Asian companies, and Asian people is an important agenda…Another possible growth potential for the Asian business or the healthcare business is how we could do clinical studies or regulations that will harmonize, get early approval, and deliver products to the Asian population as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Teshirogi. 

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