10 Of Singapore’s Hottest Biotech Startups

Check out these ten biomedical startups leading healthcare innovation from the little red dot.

AsianScientist (Oct. 9, 2017) – When illness strikes, patients and their families demand accurate diagnoses and effective remedies. Although doctors form the front lines of medical practice, their ability to serve their communities well depends on the tools and therapeutics developed by clinical researchers and biotechnologists over the years.

In Singapore, the seeds of a vibrant biomedical sector were planted in the 1980s when the government began investing heavily in pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology capabilities. These early commitments are now bearing fruit, with several biomedical companies founded in Singapore making inroads on the global stage. Here are ten of them to watch.

  1. ASLAN Pharmaceuticals
  2. Like its namesake from the fiction book Narnia, ASLAN Pharmaceuticals leapt onto the biomedical scene in 2010 with Dr. Carl Firth at the helm. Focused on tackling cancers that are prevalent in Asia, the company now boasts six promising drug candidates in its pipeline; among them, a monoclonal antibody originally developed by the p53 Laboratory at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), ASLAN005, is on track to clinical trials in 2018.

    ASLAN Pharmaceuticals made headlines earlier this year when it successfully raised US$33 million through an initial public offering on the Taipei Exchange, valuing it at US$300 million. It now operates internationally, with offices in Taiwan and China, among others.

  3. AYOXXA Biosystems
  4. Being able to detect diseases non-invasively from blood or other bodily fluids is a boon for diagnostics. AYOXXA Biosystems has thus developed a chip-based platform that can detect disease-relevant sets of proteins from small volumes of precious biological samples.

    A spin-off from the National University of Singapore (NUS), AYOXXA was co-founded in 2010 by Dr. Dieter Trau who was then an assistant professor at NUS. The company was named one of the world’s top 50 most promising startup companies at the Global Entrepreneurshup Week 2010 and raised 11.3 million euros in Series B funding in 2014. It is now headquartered in Cologne, Germany, and has offices in Singapore and Boston in the US.

  5. Clearbridge BioMedics
  6. With an estimated one in three individuals expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, a better understanding of the disease could not come sooner. Clearbridge BioMedics, a spin-off from NUS and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, has created a microfluidics-based system to enrich and analyze circulating tumor cells, paving the way for personalized cancer treatments. This is known as a liquid biopsy and is touted as the next generation of non-invasive cancer diagnostics.

    Backed by the National Research Foundation of Singapore and having received S$9 million in Series B funding in 2013, Clearbridge Biomedics serves a diverse clientele across Asia, Europe and North America.

  7. HistoIndex
  8. Conventional analyses of tissue biopsies from patients are labor-intensive and may involve some degree of subjectivity depending on the attending pathologist. This is what HistoIndex, a medical imaging company headquartered in Singapore, hopes to change with its range of fully automated and quantitative imaging systems.

    Established in 2010 by Dr. Gideon Ho as a spin-off from A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), HistoIndex has since secured partnerships with 17 partners around Europe, the US, China, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore. It is also collaborating with six pharma companies–mostly in the US–on drug development, especially for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, an increasingly common liver disease.

    Using artificial intelligence to analyze histology images of livers, HistoIndex’s Genesis system achieved a 95 percent diagnostic accuracy rate compared with only 65 percent when traditional methods were used.

  9. Invitrocue
  10. Although animal models may be useful in biomedical research, some aspects of human disease are not accurately replicated in animals, and the use of non-human mammals in drug testing has been contentious. Invitrocue, A*STAR’s first publicly-listed spinoff, is addressing both problems with its three-dimensional cell-based organoid models, which include an Oncology Patient-derived Organoid platform for customizing cancer therapy.

    Biotechnology entrepreneur Dr. Steven Fang and Professor Hanry Yu from A*STAR’s IBN founded Invitrocue in 2012. In five years, the company has gone global and now routinely helps pharmaceutical companies perform drug screenings and toxicity studies, also gaining access to the China market through a collaborative agreement with Qiagen Suzhou.

Jeremy received his PhD from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where he studied the role of the tumor microenvironment in cancer progression.

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