AstraZeneca and Sunway launch first Health Innovation Hub in Malaysia

As seen (from left) is Country president, AstraZeneca Malaysia Dr Sanjeev Panchal, Ambassador of Sweden His Excellency Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt, Ministry of Heath deputy director general Health (Research & Technical Support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim and Sunway University president Professor Sibrandes Poppema at the launch and MoU signing ceremony of the first Health Innovation Hub in Malaysia.

KUCHING: Biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has partnered with Sunway University via its innovation arm, Sunway Innovation Labs (Sunway iLabs), to establish the first Health Innovation Hub (HIH) in the country.

The hub is part of the AstraZeneca A. Catalyst Network, an interconnected global network of more than 20 AstraZeneca health innovation hubs in the world. While the Malaysia hub is the tenth hub launched in Emerging Markets, together with the hubs located in Russia, Brazil, Argentina, India, Singapore, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In line with the Malaysian government’s call for digital innovation in the healthcare sector, the hub will empower local start-ups and innovators to deliver new, sustainable solutions which will bolster the treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and support the patient experience, starting at the primary-care level.

Malaysia’s hub now becomes part of AstraZeneca’s A.Catalyst Network, bringing together digital, Research and Development (R&D) and commercial resources to improve patient outcomes. Through the A.Catalyst Network, AstraZeneca is co-creating challenge-based solutions with and for patients, and working with partners to establish integrated healthcare systems that benefit the whole patient experience — from prevention and awareness, diagnosis and treatment to post-treatment and wellness.

The Ministry of Heath deputy director general Health (Research & Technical Support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim and Ambassador of Sweden His Excellency Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt had witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the both parties, while Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin has delivered his keynote address virtually at the event in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday (April 8).

In his address, Khairy said that the hub will strategically support the development of a more robust primary care ecosystem in Malaysia and strongly position the country on the innovation front and the healthcare space.

“I am happy to see the establishment of this hub, and therefore I would like to see more public and private partnerships of this nature where researches can work with the industry to bring their products to the market,” he said.

He said the hub will provide the opportunity for commercialisation of new healthcare solutions and enabling start-ups to bring their cutting edge technology, ideas and innovation to life.

“The  new hub will be part of the Malaysia Grand Challenge which is aimed at spurring Malaysia’s research and development (R&D), commercialisation and innovation activities in the quest to prioritise science, technology and innovation to turn the country into a high-tech country,” he said.

He believed that the hub will also work to drive policy and shape the ecosystem, as well as to assist the commercialisation and expansion of healthcare solutions across the country.

“The Malaysian government is committed to investing in science, technology and innovation ecosystems because we have seen the necessity in strengthening our domestic capabilities in the face of this great global challenge.

“With breakthroughs via this ecosystem, we can level the playing field and ensure health sovereignty in the years to come,” said Khairy.

Meanwhile, Country president, AstraZeneca Malaysia Dr Sanjeev Panchal said that as a biopharmaceutical company, they have a vital role to play in supporting Malaysia’s battle against NCDs by strengthening the primary care ecosystem with solutions beyond the pill.

“With a robust ecosystem in place, we can address the prevalence of NCDs, better support the patient experience and enable digital health innovation,” he said.

He said by allowing digital technology into healthcare, it is able to solve healthcare problems ‘beyond the pill’ by providing digital solutions that are affordable, universal, high-quality and patient-centric.

“With the establishment of the Health Innovation Hub (HIH) in Malaysia, AstraZeneca aims to create partnerships with local healthcare innovators and provide them with the platform and tools needed to build sustainable ecosystems and further drive digital health innovation.

“This is aligned with the government’s priorities to integrate new technologies into patient pathways to combat the impact of NCDs,” he said.

He added the the use of technology has shown to get patients engaged and be more proactive when it comes to their own health.

“Digital tools such as sensors, wearable devices and apps allow people to monitor their health, engage with healthcare practitioners and share data more easily. This further empowers patients and opens up a new world of integrated healthcare, in which AstraZeneca has an important role to play,” said Dr Sanjeev.

Sunway Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah AO said that the number of Malaysians affected by NCDs is rising each year and with the Covid-19 pandemic, affected patients are now exposed to even higher risks.

“The HIH is another initiative to advance our goal of positioning Sunway City Kuala Lumpur as a living laboratory. It will form a part of our sustainable smart city ecosystem that fosters collaboration between the private sector, academia, civil society and engender research and innovation aimed at solving real-world problems in real time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sunway Group chief innovation officer and Sunway iLabs director Matt Van Leeuwen, said the joint initiative by Sunway iLabs and AstraZeneca is well aligned with Sunway iLabs’ vision to become ASEAN’s leading integrated innovation platform that inspires people to design, test and launch sustainable solutions for a better future.

“Together with AstraZeneca, we look forward to driving healthcare solutions and innovations that will impact lives,” he said.

Also present at the launch was Sunway University president Professor Sibrandes Poppema.