Read the Conversation

EF: What mission did you set for yourself when you were appointed general manager in Singapore? 

YY: One of Singapore’s biggest attractions is how future-centric it is for me. Singapore’s vision is to become a digitally transformed nation. It aligns with my vision and Roche’s vision to build sustainable and resilient health systems that are future-proof. This vision will help us pilot the future and what it could look like. As a result, they are strongly committed to building competitive Singaporean talent and are open to skills from beyond the borders. 

The government aims to become a biomedical hub in the region. It is exciting because as they go through a healthcare transformation, it provides us with the perfect opportunity to work together to figure out what good sustainable healthcare looks like. Piloting the future of healthcare is exciting for me; this is my personal vision.  

EF: We call 2020 the year of prevention and diagnostics and 2021 the year of vaccines. Looking back at 2022, how would you summarize it from a healthcare perspective, and what does 2023 hold for Roche in Singapore? 

YY: In a word, 2022 is about awareness. The world reset during the pandemic brought awareness to how we approach healthcare. The industry and Roche had an influenza portfolio; before the pandemic, we always pitched pandemic awareness. For infectious disease specialists, it was a matter of when, not if, there would be a pandemic.  

The pandemic set into motion several things that people, organizations, and countries discussed without action. People were caught up in choosing sides in the past decade, shifting the focus from important outcomes. The pandemic brought awareness of how to work together, how to approach healthcare in keeping with our principles, how to be innovative, and how to recognize the gap and move forward. Diversity awareness is also a part of how I will remember 2022.  

EF: What is your footprint in Singapore, and what is Singapore’s significance to the Roche Group? 

YY: Before the pandemic, the entire Roche Group set an ambitious vision to change our customer engagement and to double down on our delivery to patients and healthcare systems. We want to deliver more at a lower cost for society. The team brought the vision to life by partnering with physicians and healthcare systems to add value to the vision.  

Strategically, Singapore could be the project pilot hub for Roche. We pilot many projects internally and externally. We have visionary partners, key-taught leaders, and government bodies always willing to work on multiple projects with us. This is why Singapore is strategically important to us. We have completed several key projects that envision and embody personalized healthcare. The projects aimed to bring innovations to life and to show diagnosis, treatment selection, decision-making, and accessibility for patients. We are also looking at how we can use data for digital integration. Many clinician-scientists are passionate about their research. Singapore may be small, but it is ahead in the healthcare environment in several key aspects.  

EF: How does Roche define access, and to what extent do you use Singapore as a gateway and hub to drive access throughout surrounding markets? 

YY: Access to us does not mean key markets; rather, it means providing access to all patients. We adopt different strategies because realizing this goal takes work. Some plans include differential pricing because of variable pricing in other markets. We are exploring innovative solutions. Roche is still trying to figure out how to do more. 

We have programs that place leaders to run emerging market project solutions to try and solve healthcare system imbalances. The biggest issue around access and equality of access is the infrastructure and basic foundation of the healthcare system. Many efforts have been embarked on to enable access across the board. Singapore’s role is from a sound scientific decision on accessibility and how we select treatment. Generally, patient accessibility is well-covered, which gives physicians room to make the right decisions for the patient. 

Singapore’s influence on its regulatory body will become a future reference for other countries in the region. It can be a reference for making decisions on risk value assessment. Singapore will play an influencing role in navigating change. That is to say that Singapore’s strength in its various policy, such as regulations, will become a future reference for other countries in the region. This could be true for HTA and access policy. With this, Singapore could play an influential role in the region by pioneering healthcare for the future. 

EF: How is Roche working with policymakers and government agencies to shape the future of the pharmaceutical scene in Singapore? 

YY: It is currently an area of curiosity. This is an area that I am particularly interested in as I find the role and sheer potential of public-private partnerships in healthcare intriguing. Singapore is a small country that channels its efforts into attracting investments which is why the government works closely with all industries. We are still taking baby steps in public-private collaborations in the health system and private healthcare. We still have a way to go in the form of collaborative partnerships in the healthcare sector. This is the one key area we can all improve and work together on especially considering all the benefits all the stakeholders could reap. We can only grow a broader, more sustainable healthcare ecosystem collaboratively. Collaboration is the one key area Singapore needs to improve and capitalize on to make private-public partnerships work. It is fundamental for future sustainability that everyone is on the same page. 

EF: As per your recent partnership with Oncoshot, how is the increased prevalence of sharing data and using AI improving research and clinical trials? 

YY: I credit Oncoshot and Icon Cancer Centre for coming on board in this project. Together we look for ways to enable more digitally integrated data to become better decision-makers for patients. It is a broad vision that encompasses many things. This collaboration is an example of our commitment and a case of how partnerships can be done. Oncoshot has AI data science capabilities, and Icon is a group of hospitals with patient data. Our role is to provide access to the data of our panel. We do genome sequencing and CGP for Icon through our FMI panel. As a group, we want to integrate our CGP and FMI data into our normal laboratory regular reports and database. 

Seven years after its introduction, commercialized genomic testing still needs to be integrated into the hospital EMR system. Today, this data has yet to be integrated and is sometimes filed and forgotten. There is also the added complexity of the unease of interpreting genome profiling. Oncoshot is digitalizing those reports and providing the capability to analyze the data because of its complexity. The ambition is to digitalize genome sequencing and integrate all of Icons patients’ data, digitalize and help map clinical trials. When Icon goes into trials using AI, they can pull patients that could be considered into the trials. This collaboration shows how digitalization can enable better outcomes or faster decision-making.  

EF: How are you contributing to increasing Singapore’s innovation footprint? 

YY: At Roche, we are extremely proud of our heritage in bringing innovative solutions for patients, and the Singapore government has been a strong partner in encouraging greater innovation. They are eager to bring innovation into Singapore, from manufacturing to clinical trials and research to bringing in new thoughts and ideas. For us locally, it is about piloting new innovative concepts. When we talk about personalized healthcare as an example, we rolled out the shining tower initiative that aims to pilot and build collaborations with the ecosystem and make personalized healthcare sustainable. Singapore was selected and is a centre of excellence site to pilot the project as an example to others. 

The people in our organization play a critical role in enhancing the awareness of the capabilities of what we can have here and connecting with the right stakeholders in the ecosystem. There are many future innovative topics, treatments, and digital initiatives. The environment here is robust and conducive to these types of initiatives. Overall, this helps with the ambition of the country to become an innovative hub. This aligns with Roche’s mission to always be the leader in charted and uncharted areas.  

EF: If you personally had to open a new business in Singapore’s health sector in 2023, what would it be and why? 

YY: I would create a startup to solve data utility in the healthcare system. The first issue would be solving the lack of data privacy and integrity. This problem has slowed down or stopped several companies’ digital transformation in the healthcare sector locally. We still need to hash out how to integrate the data, but none of this can happen if we do not confidently solve for data integrity and data safety. It is our biggest barrier that is not currently being addressed by the solutions in the market today, so I would choose a tech start-up to progress our healthcare ecosystem here.  

EF: What three pieces of advice would you give the new generation of women leaders who would like to follow your path to becoming successful female leaders? 

YY: Curiosity is a very important trait, especially as a woman born in the time of the world wide web. There is much to learn from the different systems, cultures, and countries. Being open and curious in this new age is important because you know various things. I benefit from learning about other countries and experiencing new things and cultures. Your curiosity will help build your confidence because it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes the more you explore, the more lost you become. The more you discover, the more you realize that there is no wrong or right answer, and the more everything seems possible but impossible. It is about embodying the confidence to navigate through the world. My advice to you is to be confident and follow your passion. Do not box yourself in for the sake of ticking the box because you will not be happy, which will eventually show in your work. It would be best if you worked on something you are truly passionate about, and the rest will follow.  

EF: What key achievement will you add to your speech for your fiftieth anniversary in Singapore next year? 

YY: In the past fifty years, we have had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of so many Singaporeans. We have brought many innovations to the market and collaborated with key healthcare players to help play our part in shaping and changing the healthcare ecosystem. Roche is proud of the discovery of and introduction of targeted treatment. The discovery brought about many changes within the healthcare system.  

How do we support building this capability and making sure we are making the right decision? Targeted therapy was the first step, and we continued with personalized healthcare. With that, several people are trying to shape the ecosystem. At the core, Roche is a business with a purpose and has delivered on that purpose and the impact we want. Everyone who has joined the organization has a personal story of why we are here. Everyone has an underlying purpose and passion for why they are in the healthcare industry. It is a moment to be proud of what we have achieved these past fifty years.  

February 2023