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Vol 20, No. 03, March 2016   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
APACMed - Serving Unmet Healthcare Needs in Asia Pacific
The Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) was established to represent a diverse group of innovative medical technology companies and industry associations in the Asia Pacific region. With this purpose, APACMed hosted a MedTech Forum held on 10-11th December 2015 in Singapore, which attracted the attention of close to 500 delegates and professionals.

“Our region is diverse and filled with complex healthcare challenges. APACMed is uniquely positioned to provide a unified voice for the industry to shape policies. Only through partnership and collaboration can we make a real difference,” said Fredrik Nyberg, Chief Executive Officer of APACMed. With adopting the new universal code of ethical conduct, APACMed promotes close and innovative collaboration between the medical technology industry and healthcare professionals. These collaborations are essential to advancing medical technology and ensuring the safe and effective use of members’ products and services.

The following interviews with Fredrik Nyberg, CEO of APACMed was conducted to enhance understanding about the roles and functions of APACMed in medical technology in Asia Pacific region.

Fredrik brings 30 years of experience in the medical technology industry, 24 of which were spent in Asia Pacific. He has worked across the region and lived in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. He has a background in both senior strategic consulting roles and in operational sales, marketing and general management positions.

Fredrik has also worked extensively with start-up medical technology companies both as an advisor and a venture capitalist. He was most recently Senior Director and Medical Technology Practice Lead at Quintiles Consulting, based in Singapore. He began his career in Asia with Ohmeda, now separate units of GE Healthcare, Becton Dickinson and Baxter. Fredrik holds a BSc from Gothenburg University, Sweden, and an MBA from Henley Management College, UK.

1. You have more than 25 years working experience in strategic business planning in healthcare and life sciences industry. What inspires you stepping into healthcare industry?

It is a privilege being able to work in an industry that serves patients in need, especially in emerging markets where access to quality healthcare is often poor and unmet needs are greatest. I began my career in product management; training doctors, nurses and biomed engineers from Bangladesh to Bulgaria. Seeing how relatively basic training could immediately help reduce complications and improve patient outcomes was quite eye-opening.

2. What made you kick start your career in Asia Pacific?

I relocated from Europe to Asia Pacific in the early 1990s, leading regional sales and marketing for a medical device multinational. Since then, I have also led healthcare startups and strategic consulting businesses targeting pharmaceutical and medical technology companies in Asia. The region has undergone an incredible transformation in the last 20 years. Given the very significant growth opportunity in the Asia Pacific healthcare sector, it was an easy decision to stay on. The diversity of the region, the growth dynamics and the rapidly developing economies and healthcare systems make this one of the most interesting places to do business.

3. As the only regional medical technology association in Asia Pacific, what approach will APACMed use to tackle the challenges of having complex and diverse healthcare markets in Asia Pacific?

The Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) was established in late 2014 with the aim of unifying the industry to raise standards of care for patients in the region. The diversity across Asia Pacific in demographics, disease profiles, healthcare systems, and regulatory regimes presents big challenges. Supporting our member companies in addressing these challenges is certainly part of our agenda.

Over the last year we have worked closely with our knowledge partner, McKinsey & Company, to analyse the medical technology industry dynamics in Asia Pacific. McKinsey interviewed 150 senior executives from our member organisations as well as regulators, health ministry representatives, academia and healthcare providers. Their report was published in December 2015 in conjunction with the MedTech Forum and provides a strategic framework for APACMed.

The reality is that the Asia Pacific markets are not going to get any less complex or diverse any time soon. But the McKinsey report highlights priority areas where we can begin work as a unified industry body. For example, we have identified the need for much greater collaboration among stakeholders (regulators, academics, healthcare providers, industry executives, trade groups, and patient groups) to build regulatory capacity, to enhance the pace and quality of medical education and to accelerate adoption of new healthcare delivery models (e.g. in homecare).

4. What roles can APACMed play in shaping the future of healthcare industry in Asia Pacific?

Demand for quality healthcare is soaring in our region, driven by an ageing population, a growing middle class, and a rising chronic disease burden. Yet, the healthcare needs of the majority of the population remain unmet. For example, hospital infrastructure build is not keeping up with demand; many countries have severe shortages of doctors, early prevention and screening varies and regulatory approval processes for new therapies and technologies are poorly harmonised across the region.

As the first and only regional body that represents the medical technology industry in Asia Pacific, APACMed can play a significant role in bringing together the various stakeholders in the industry (including regulators, academia, healthcare professionals, industry executives, trade groups and patient groups) to share best practices and seek harmonisation of policies and regulatory approval processes.

5. How do you see the difference between the developments of med tech in Asia Pacific with that in other parts of the world such as Europe?

It is difficult to generalise given how diverse Asia Pacific is as a region. Developed markets such as Japan and Australia have many similarities to Europe: their medical technology sectors are well established, health infrastructure is world class and the healthcare systems face similar cost pressures.

Other markets such as China and India, although developing rapidly, still face major shortcomings in healthcare infrastructure. Home to thousands of medical technology manufacturers, these emerging markets have historically been focused on producing low-tech, me-too devices. However, this is beginning to change with local innovators developing products from drug eluting stents to molecular diagnostics.

6. Who is qualified to be one of the members of APACMed association, and how can they apply the membership?

Although membership is only open to organisations, not to individuals, we do value diversity and APACMed welcomes any company with an interest in Asia Pacific.

Our main membership categories are:

  1. Corporate Members - Companies manufacturing and conducting R&D of medical equipment, devices or in vitro diagnostics.
  2. Industry Association Members - National associations representing the interests of the medical technology industry in a country in Asia Pacific.
  3. Associate Members - Service providers, CROs, consultants, legal firms, recruitment firms, investors, distributors, contract manufacturers.
  4. Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) -Companies manufacturing and/or conducting R&D in medical technology with annual sales less than USD 50 million.

For detailed eligibility requirements and more information on membership, please contact the APACMed Secretariat at
[email protected]

7. How do you see the respective roles of developed countries and developing countries in contributing to the future development medical device and in-vitro diagnostic industry?

What we have seen over the last decade is a shift among global medical technology companies from (a) developing products in the West for the world, to (b) developing products in Asia for Asia, to (c) developing products in Asia for the world.

Some of the largest global medical technology manufacturers already have R&D centres in developing markets such as China and India. But most Western medical technology manufacturers still focus on offering their global portfolios, sometimes with minimal changes to meet local demands.

Developing countries, including emerging markets in Asia, will drive so called “frugal innovation” both among local, domestic medical technology companies and among the more progressive global MNC’s.

8. What are the challenges in bringing med tech innovations to market?

The medical technology innovation process is fundamentally different from that of pharma or biotech in that it almost always requires early clinician input. In fact, many medical technology innovations were conceptualised by surgeons in the operating room.

Although it is far less costly to bring medical technology innovations through the development process when compared with pharmaceuticals, many challenges do remain. For medical technology startups the biggest problem is often about navigating regulatory pathways: where do you obtain regulatory approval first to minimise time to market and maximise early revenue potential? The largest potential market may also have the longest, most complex regulatory approval process.

As more SMEs come on board as APACMed members, we will be providing guidance to companies on these types of challenges through workshops and seminars.

9. Do you mind sharing your insights about the future prospects of medical devices and technological development in Asia Pacific region?

Some of the technologies demonstrated at the Asia Pacific MedTech Forum recently provide novel, minimally invasive approaches to surgeries, including joint replacements. Minimally invasive technologies have made tremendous advances over the last few decades. Surgical procedures that would require weeks in post-operative care can now be done on an out-patient basis with the patient walking out of the hospital shortly after surgery. These technologies have saved healthcare systems hundreds of millions in costs whilst granting patients the benefit of being discharged quickly.

These are very exciting times for medical technology. Firstly, we are seeing the convergence of technologies across the spectrum – nanotechnology and drug delivery; big data analytics and patient monitoring; robotics and miniaturization; telemedicine and frugal point-of-care imaging. The benefits to patients in Asia Pacific will be enormous. As an industry we need to ensure these patients have timely access to new life-changing technologies.

Secondly, we see medical technology innovation shifting to emerging markets in general and to Asia in particular. China and India are set to become the new innovation powerhouses in medical technology.

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