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Private Sector Tracker: How Asia’s Companies Are Responding To The COVID-19 Pandemic

8 min read
With the global pandemic reaching more than 175 countries and territories, companies across the Asia-Pacific are responding to the crisis on several fronts. Some are donating funds for medical supplies, while those in biotech are ramping up production for testing kits or working to create a much-needed vaccine. Below, we’ve compiled a list of notable companies and the ways in which they are responding to the evolving pandemic.

By Grace Chung with Atika Lim.

With the global pandemic reaching more than 175 countries and territories, companies across the Asia-Pacific are responding to the crisis on several fronts. Some are donating funds for medical supplies, while those in biotech are ramping up production for testing kits or working to create a much-needed vaccine. Below, we’ve compiled a list of notable companies and the ways in which they are responding to the evolving pandemic.

This is a developing story—Forbes Asia will continue to track and update the contributions of Asia’s companies. This roster is sorted by two categories, first by the latest developments (and updates to previous efforts), followed by the overall list of contributions from Asia’s companies.

May 15 to May 28

China Online Education Group: The education firm, which owns 51 Talk and Hawo, donated 5.25 million Philippine pesos ($103,000) worth of medical supplies to the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The supplies have been distributed to three hospitals in Metro Manila.

Fujifilm: The Tokyo-based company started research to develop artificial intelligence technology to diagnose and treat patients with Covid-19-induced pneumonia. The study will be part of a joint effort with local medical institutions, starting with the Kanagawa Cardiovascular and Respiratory Center. At the end of March, the company’s pharmaceutical arm, Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, started phase III clinical trials of its flu drug Favipiravir on Covid-19 patients in Japan and is accelerating production.

Humasis: The Korean in vitro diagnostics firm will reportedly donate 31,000 of its test kits to Myanmar in response to the latter country’s humanitarian aid project. This follows similar donations by the company to countries such as the U.S., Brazil and France.

Huobi Group: The blockchain firm is working with the Finance Center for South-South Cooperation, a U.N.-sanctioned non-profit, to raise $143,000 in cryptocurrencies in 15 days. The Singapore-based company hopes to fund medical supplies and personal protective equipment for frontline workers within the Southern Hemisphere, including Asia. Thus far, Huobi has contributed an estimated $69,000 worth of Huobi Tokens to the campaign. In April, the company donated $50,000 worth of Huobi Tokens to the Indonesia-China Association of Economic, Social and Cultural Cooperation to help fund medical supplies for hospitals in Indonesia. In January, the company committed $1.4 million to source and donate protective suits, oximeters and other supplies to more than 135 hospitals and healthcare centers in Wuhan.

Mesoblast: The biotech company has raised $90 million in funding to help scale up manufacturing and production of its Remestemcel-L drug to treat patients with Covid-19. Since March the Australian medical firm has been working with authorities in Australia, China, Europe and the U.S. to evaluate the use of the drug.

Novena Global Lifecare: The medical and aesthetic group announced it will distribute equipment such as ventilators, test kits and personal protective equipment in Singapore. In January the company shifted production lines to make 100 units of essential medical supplies for governments, hospitals and organizations worldwide. 

Sany Group: The Chinese maker of construction and mining equipment has donated 600,000 masks to the government of Maharashtra in India. This follows the company’s previous donation of 50,000 masks to parts of Germany, including Essen and Bedburg.

Seegene: Since February the South Korean biotech firm has ramped up production of its innovative Covid-19 test kits, which helped with the country’s rapid testing measures. The firm has sent test kits to countries in Europe and Asia; and is awaiting approval from the U.S. FDA. The company announced in May that it will expanding distribution to South America by sending 10 million test kits to Brazil and will be ramping up production to meet increasing demands across the globe

WuXi Diagnostics: Together with Thermo Fisher Scientific and Mayo Clinic, the Shanghai-based company is developing a total antibodies test and is currently seeking approval from the U.S. FDA Emergency Use Authorization and other international regulatory boards.

Asia’s Private Sector

Ansell: In April the Australian protective equipment maker announced expanding production capacity to meet higher demand for its biohazard suits and gloves.

Ascletis: In March the Hangzhou-based pharmaceutical company announced results of clinical trials of its antiviral drug danoprevir on Covid-19 patients in China; the small-scale study found that “danoprevir combined with ritonavir is safe and well tolerated in all patients.”

Asia Coatings Enterprises: In May its paint subsidiary Mowilex Indonesia donated 26,000 face masks and 14,000 other personal protective equipment to frontline workers through the Indonesian Hospital Association (PERSI). A month earlier, Mowilex’s CEO, Niko Safavi, announced the company will continue to pay employees their full salaries despite a reduction in work schedules.

Biolidics: Singapore-based medtech firm created and started marketing of a Covid-19 test kit in March. The test kit is now approved for sale in the EU and the Philippines, and received provisional authorization from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority. It is looking to gain approval for sale in the U.S. and elsewhere in Asia.

BeiGene: The Beijing-based biotech company is launching clinical trials of its mantle cell lymphoma drug zanubrutinib on 42 COVID-19 patients in the U.S. On April 29, the firm announced a collaboration with South San Francisco biopharma outfit Atreca and Mountain View, California-based IGM Biosciences to develop antibody-based treatments for COVID-19.

Bukwang Pharmaceutical: Seoul, South Korea-based pharma outfit announced positive antiviral effects from trials of its hepatitis B drug clevudine on COVID-19 patients in South Korea.

CanSino Biologics: Tianjin, China-based pharma company started clinical trials for its Covid-19 vaccine in March, using the vaccine technology deployed to develop the Ebola vaccine. On April 10, the firm entered phase II of testing.

DBS Bank: In April, the Singapore multinational bank, through its DBS Stronger Together Fund, announced it will donate S$10.5 million ($7.3 million) to help communities in Asia affected by the virus. The funds will be used to provide meals and care packets across Asia; as well as test kits, ventilators and protective gear for India and Indonesia, where medical supplies are lacking. The bank is also working with The Food Bank Singapore to provide meals for low-income individuals and the elderly.

Envision Group: In March, one of the world’s largest wind turbine makers set up a manufacturing center in China that can produce a daily output of 100,000 masks. In a televised interview, founder and CEO Lei Zhang said Envision’s automation technology can meet the growing demand for masks quickly. The Shanghai-based company says it will donate the masks to businesses, schools and communities in China and to other countries affected by the virus such as Japan and South Korea.

FPT Group: In February, technology firm FPT partnered with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health and launched a 24/7 chatbot that could handle 5,000 Covid-19 related inquires per day. The following month Hanoi-based FPT donated its 2,000-room university dorm for quarantine purposes and contributed $850,000 in medical equipment, such as ventilators and disinfectant supplies to the local government. 

GeneOne Life Science: Announced in March, South Korean vaccine maker is collaborating with researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital to develop an RNA vaccine for Covid-19.

Green Cross: South Korean biopharma company’s subsidiary GC Lab Cell has been developing cell therapy-based treatments for Covid-19 since March, with plans to begin human trials in the second half of the year.

HDFC Bank: The Indian bank announced in May that it has donated $20 million to the national PM-Cares fund and released a music video titled “ We Won’t Accept Defeat” by Oscar and Grammy-Award winning composer AR Rahman. The bank says it will donate $7 to the fund each time the video is shared on social media. 

Healthmatch: TheAustralian startup, which facilities clinical trials for medical firms, has set up a global Covid-19 clinical trial tracker in March and is also providing firms with free access to its platform to recruit trial patients for research in Australia. Healthmatch is headed by Forbes Asia’s Under 30 honoree Manuri Gunawardena.

I-Mab Biopharma: Shanghai-based biopharma outfit announced in March it would begin clinical trials of its TJM2 antibody treatment on Covid-19 patients in the U.S., with plans to expand to other countries affected by the pandemic.

JN Medsys: Following a provisional approval in April, the Singapore-based company is ramping up production of its “ProTect” test kit, which detects three target genes, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; according the firm, results can be obtained in two hours and has an accuracy rate of more than 95%.

MetroResidences: In May the Singapore-based hospitality startup launched the Safe Home Programme, which will provide free accommodation for frontline workers who wish to isolate themselves for up to 14 days. Workers looking to extend their stay will receive a 50% discount from standard monthly rates. In its Japan locations, discounts of 20% will be given to select apartments. 

Pan Brothers: In April the garment manufacturer responded to Indonesia’s call for help by converting their manufacturing lines to create hazmat suits and face masks for front line workers. The company —whose clients include Prada and Adidas— has reportedly produced 10 million masks and 100,000 jumpsuits, with plans to raise production to 100 million masks, 10 million disposable jump suits and one million washable jumpsuits. 

Ping An: The Chinese insurance firm announced on April 3 that it is donating £1.1 million ($1.2 million) worth of medical supplies to the U.K. government such as test kits, protective clothing and ventilators.

Shionogi: The publicly traded Japanese pharmaceutical company is working on a COVID-19 vaccine with the country’s Agency for Medical Research and Development; the firm is also collaborating with researchers at the Hokkaido University Research Center for Zoonosis Control on potential treatments for the disease, with plans to start clinical trials in late 2020.

Shiseido: In Aprilthe cosmetics giant announced it will be shifting some of its production lines in Japan to make hand sanitizers for the country’s medical facilities; two of its factories will reach a capacity of 200,000 bottles per month. Its subsidiaries in France and the U.S. will also produce disinfectant solutions, which will be supplied to medical centers in the respective countries. The company says it will share its sanitizing formula with other companies.

Sinovac Biotech: Beijing-based biotech firm received approval from the Chinese government to begin human trials of its COVID-19 vaccine on April 14.

Suncity Group: In May its Philippines’ subsidiary, SunTrust, together with the Resorts World Philippines Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation, donated 50 million Philippine pesos ($2 million) worth of personal protective equipment to 40 public hospitals in Luzon. Suncity is one of Macau’s largest junket operators.

Takeda: Japanese medical firm started working on hyperimmune therapy in March, using blood plasma from previously infected patients.

Yili Group: In May the Chinese dairy company Yili Group, together with its Thai subsidiary, donated 170,400 face masks and other protective products to several organizations in Thailand including the Thai Red Cross and the Pathum Thani Hospital. This follows similar donations by the company to Iraq, Uruguay, the Netherlands and Indonesia.

Yuchengco Group: In March the group’s chairperson Helen Yuchengco Dee stated that employees of the conglomerate will continue to have their jobs and will receive their full monthly salaries during Philippines’ quarantine period. In a Facebook post, Mapúa University, which is partly owned by Yuchengoco, said the company has also taken part in Project Ugnayan, an initiative that provides grocery vouchers for needy families in Manila. 

Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceuticals: Chinese pharmaceutical company announced positive results from trials of its flu drug Favipiravir on Covid-19 patients in Shenzhen and Wuhan in March; the company is supplying the drug to authorities in China and several other countries.

With additional reporting by Pamela Ambler, Justin Doebele, Naazneen Karmali, Atika Lim and Giacomo Tognini.

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