Asian Scientist Magazine (Sep. 16, 2022) — From consumer wellness and medical devices to healthcare infrastructure and workflow efficiencies, the Biodesign method creates tailored solutions across a wide range of healthcare applications.
Launched in 2010, Singapore Biodesign is modeled after the established Biodesign Program at Stanford University and is the first Asian Global Affiliate of the renowned Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign.
Like the program at Stanford University, Singapore Biodesign emphasizes the belief that, rather than a series of random ‘lightbulb moments’, innovation is a process that can be learned and honed with guidance. The national-level talent development platform, hosted by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), aims to train and nurture the next generation of health and medtech innovators for the region.
One of the ways Singapore Biodesign intends to achieve this is through its Innovation Fellowship program. The program is dedicated to providing health tech hopefuls with six months of high-touch training and mentorship for a chance to compete for funding from public and private funders. Applications are now open for passionate individuals interested in mastering the Biodesign methodology to deliver impactful solutions for unmet clinical needs.
The big idea behind biodesign
At its core, Biodesign is a needs-centric approach that leverages a rigorous finding, filtering and validating process. With a tried and tested roadmap, innovators can identify clinical needs, come up with conceptual solutions and implement these solutions with well-researched strategies.
“The strength of the Biodesign framework lies in its adaptability. The methodology is powerful in uncovering unmet healthcare needs from any healthcare discipline and designing agnostic solutions for consumer and wellness, regulated medical devices, healthcare IT and healthcare workflow efficiencies,” explained program director, Dr Mary Kan.
As healthcare infrastructure in Asia strains and buckles under the weight of a pandemic and an ageing population, innovation has become more important than ever. The Biodesign process can support innovation and directly address the needs of all stakeholders—patients, providers and the public sector.
The process begins by identifying an unmet need through on-the-ground observation and research. Specifically, a ‘good’ need that takes into account insights beyond the immediate technical problem. Next, innovators will brainstorm to generate possible concepts. Finally, the team will formulate a robust strategy to implement and commercialize a novel technology.
Taking the first step
To help budding innovators make the leap, the Singapore Biodesign Innovation Fellowship offers six months of hands-on training with multidisciplinary experts dedicated to developing new health and medtech innovations for unmet clinical needs in Asia.
The program will bring together diverse individuals that include engineers, healthcare professionals and industry professionals. The team will be trained in the Biodesign pedagogy and guided along their health technology innovation journey by esteemed mentors.
“Fellows will get to tap into their mentors’ wide-ranging experience from relevant disciplines like clinical, technical, venture and industry,” shared Dr Kan. “They will also have the opportunity to immerse in regional countries like China and Indonesia to investigate unmet clinical needs and develop a deeper understanding of the native health and medtech ecosystems.”
Leveraging the organization’s extensive network, fellows can spend time with Silicon Valley partners to develop and refine top projects. This unique approach offers them access to seasoned commercialization experts and the chance to secure follow-up funding and see their projects to fruition.
Filling the medtech gap
To date, Singapore Biodesign has trained over 1000 individuals who have gone on to contribute significantly to the local health and medtech ecosystem. Forty-three former Innovation Fellows have enabled 20 startups and 50 innovation projects, while the alumni of the workshops offered by Singapore Biodesign have contributed to more than 500 innovation projects.
Impressively, Singapore Biodesign alumni have mobilized a whopping $87 million in funds for the industry. One example is Privi Medical, a homegrown medical device company founded by former Innovation Fellows from the 2014 batch. With the Biodesign method, the team developed a novel treatment for hemorrhoids and introduced it to the market after obtaining both US FDA and China NMPA clearance. In 2021, the company was acquired via a trade sale, becoming the first Singapore Biodesign Innovation Fellowship–originated project to achieve a successful exit.
“I hope to see the fellowship expand and attract more health and medtech innovators passionate about making an impact in various disciplines, healthcare products and regions. To achieve this, Singapore Biodesign will continue to refine our teaching and mentoring during the fellowship, while bolstering support for our alumni in their post-fellowship journey,” said Dr Kan. “I am also hopeful to see more innovations from our alumni reach the market over the next few years.”
Images: PixaBay; Singapore Biodesign
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.