Hong Kong seeks a seat at precision medicine services table

As China gears up to announce a what has been reported as a massive precision medicine plan next month, hospitals and companies in Hong Kong in the space want a seat at the table, suggesting the wealthy territory would be an ideal treatment hub.

China Daily cited Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) School of Biomedical Sciences Professor Stephen Tsui Kwok-wing who said cost and efficiencies in Hong Kong's medical system would bring treatments in reach for millions around the region, including Mainland China.

Hong Kong is a territory of China, but largely runs its public services independently from direct Beijing control under a formula of "one country, two systems" in place following Britain ending its administrative rule in 1997.

Practically though many Mainland Chinese see its services and products as higher quality and flock to buy everything from cutting-edge oncology and hepatitis C treatments to infant formula products that are not trusted at home.

In many cases as well, many therapies that could be prescribed after testing are not yet approved in China. Medical tourism to Hong Kong has however been less pronounced with destinations in Thailand seen as more affordable, or Singapore for more cutting-edge treatments in oncology.

But with reports suggesting Beijing may detail a precision medicine effort well in excess of a $215 million U.S. plan announced last year, demand for related genetic tests and related medical and biotechnology, and therapies, should provide opportunities, China Daily said.

The newspaper cited biotech Prenetics CEO Danny Yeung who has opened a new clinic for genetic testing for precision medicine, adding it was of a higher standard that similar services found in Singapore.

However CUHK department of medicine Adjunct Professor Brian Tomlinson said the new testing needs trained personnel, including doctors, to make the right use of the data, China Daily said.

But as China Daily notes, genetic tests in Hong Kong have never been cheaper, citing Yeung, who noted much of the lab work is now done onshore from an earlier practice of sending samples overseas for testing. Several firms are now in the space with kits at prices approaching $199 for BRCA gene testing.

- here's the China Daily story