The Health November 2020 - Page 8

With the Covid-19 pandemic , HWGB sees healthcare as the most relevant industry to step into

08

The Health | November , 2020

| Cover Story |

TEAMWORK ... Moving forward as one .

The right timing

With the Covid-19 pandemic , HWGB sees healthcare as the most relevant industry to step into

BY KHIRTINI K KUMARAN

Ho Wah Genting Berhad ( HWGB )

is diversifying aggressively into the healthcare and biotech sector . This year alone , it has entered into a slew of agreements with various parties , including potentially developing a vaccine for Covid-19 .
Investors have reacted positively to these ventures , and its shares have risen significantly since the announcement . Spearheading this strategic diversification is HWGB ’ s Managing Director / CEO Dato ’ Aaron Lim Ooi Hong and his management team .
To be sure , the company ’ s diversification into healthcare had started even before the pandemic hit Malaysia .
“ The diversification plan into healthcare industry started early this year , before the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic , when I was looking into Big Data and was particularly keen in health technology .
“ Since the outbreak of Covid-19 , the whole world is looking into healthcare ,” Lim told The Health .
The interesting thing about polio is that it belongs to the same family pathogen as the coronavirus pathogen , whereby the polio is the first generation .”
– Dato ’ Aaron Lim
“ Currently , it is the most relevant industry . We have signed up several right products , and some of them have already obtained approval from the government .”
HWGB ’ s healthcare diversification is through its wholly-owned subsidiary , HWGB Biotech Sdn Bhd ( HWGB Biotech ). It was formerly known as HWG Consortium Sdn Bhd .
Lim shared while most healthcare companies were heavily asset-based , his approach was to be a light asset-based company .
“ It means we try and get right products , and then work with the experts in the industry like now .
“ For example , on the local distribution network , we try to identify who is the expert in this specific area and work with them .
“ As we are the formulae-holder or the owner of the products , we can have leverage . This is our current strategy .”
Lim was confident with good products and projects as well as the right management team , HWGB Biotech would be transformed into a well-established unit within the Group .
“ We hope within the next three to five years , we ’ ll be on the right track .”
Working with healthcare experts
The prospects for the Malaysian healthcare industry are bright . Expenditure in 2019 was estimated at RM63.94 billion and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate ( CAGR ) of 7.5 per cent to
RM91.40 billion in 2024 .
Lim explained the healthcare industry was a broad field , and the company was diversifying into the dietary supplements , biotechnology and healthcare technology sub-segments .
HWGB will focus on these three sub-segments .
“ Within these segments , we are looking to provide a comprehensive range of big health products and solutions that adopt preventive measures , which are crucial during this pandemic .”
One of the first things Lim did when he started the diversification plan was to form a chief executive committee . He appointed consultants with relevant experience in the healthcare and technology industry to advise the management .
The committee comprises experts in the field of health technology , medical , sales and marketing strategies , and healthcarerelated laws and regulation .
“ We engaged suitable candidates with relevant healthcare industry experience to oversee the day-to-day operations and management of the new healthcare-related business segment ,” said Lim
Polio-based Covid-19 vaccine
Among the products procured by HWGB Biotech were dietary supplements and Covid-19 diagnostic kits . The company had also entered into a partnership with US-based E-MO Biology Inc ( EBI ) to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 .
“ In these past six months , whenever we hear of vaccine news , they always use existing vaccines or antiviral to cure the patients ,” he said , addressing the wide use of HIV , Ebola vaccines as a potential medication for Covid-19 .
According to Lim , EBI is working towards repurposing the polio vaccine for Covid-19 .
“ Polio or poliomyelitis is one of the oldest and safest drugs that is available .
“ The interesting thing about polio is that it belongs to the same family pathogen as the coronavirus pathogen , whereby the polio is the first generation ,” he explained .
It is believed there was potential to derive a vaccine from the existing Poliomyelitis Virus Vaccine ( PVV ) for prevention of Covid-19 .
Professor Qiyi Xie , the sole director and shareholder of EBI , has submitted a provisional patent .
“ He has submitted his work , the provisional patent , early . So , once everything is done , we can move to the clinical trial . Once its effectiveness is proven , then we move on to patent ,” explained Lim .
Collaborations
EBI will undertake Phase IV clinical trials for a new indication which proposes the use of existing poliomyelitis virus vaccines for the prevention of Covid-19 . It will also launch the research and development , testing , registration , commercialisation and other activities relating to the five provisional patent applications , subject to the approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) on the