Biotechnology has been evolving as the next big solution to many of our problems. We continue to put immense demands on the Earth, and we have to come to terms with the dwindling of our natural resources. Biotech, technology based on biology, has given us the ability to use living systems and organisms to create new products. Startups and scientists are using biotech in many innovative ways to develop alternative resources and medicines. One country where this phenomenon is rapidly growing is in Singapore.
Since the 1980s, Singapore’s government has invested in its biomedical sector with a focus on pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology. As a result, Singapore is now an emerging hub with several promising biotech startups making their way onto the scene. Many of these are medtech companies with a focus on biomed and biopharma. These companies are becoming the essential new face of medicine.
As evident from recent flu outbreaks and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the world is always in need of new and more efficient medical treatments. Singapore’s biotech ecosystem has grown significantly over the past few years and as more co-working spaces and research and development centres are founded and funded by the government and venture capitalists, it is looking increasingly likely that the sector will continue to grow.
The perfect setup: Biopolis
One factor that has helped pave Singapore’s success was the creation of Biopolis, the country’s first-ever co-working space for biotech startups. This space, used as an international research and development centre for various biomedical sciences, helps to promote collaboration between the private and public scientific communities. It also allows more startups access to the resources needed for success.
Biopolis acts as an incubator for small biotech startups in Singapore by providing them with lab space, equipment, funding, and advice. The support and facilities provided by this co-working space are already having a positive effect on the scientific community in the region. It is doing well, creating opportunities for companies to discuss the idea of future collaborations and aiding the continued building of the thriving biotech industry.
Fighting cancer: AUM Biosciences
AUM Biosciences is one Singapore based biotech startup leading the way in transforming the drug development process in oncology. The company focuses on creating new, accessible and affordable drugs for use in treating a variety of cancers. Their innovation and enterprising ways led to them winning the Asia-Pacific Biotech Entrepreneurial Company of the Year award in 2019. Using a holistic approach to medicine allows them to offer patients tangible and positive outcomes as they utilise precision medicine, innovative trial designs, and digitalisation to meet their goals. This startup has worthwhile goals, especially considering, in many countries, cancer is the second most common cause of death. Any advancements towards treating this often deadly disease are more than welcome in the global world of medicine.
Diagnostic technologies: One BioMed
One poignant example of Singapore’s success with biotech startups is the story of One BioMed. The Singapore based diagnostics company work in collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research’s (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS). Their lab focuses on developing silicon biophotonics technology as well as chemistry based nucleic acid extraction for biomedical diagnostics of infectious diseases.
Last year, this rising star of the biotech field closed a $5 million USD Series A round of financing. They are planning to use this funding to commercialise one of their primary products, helping to diagnose patients faster and more accurately. Their cutting edge, digital health technologies have the potential to revolutionise early infectious disease detection allowing physicians globally to provide better, targeted care to their patients.
Cell-specific treatments: Lion TCR
Lion TCR is a clinical-stage biotech company focused on developing innovative T cell receptor (TCR) – T cell therapy to protect against life-threatening viral infections and other viral related illnesses, including cancers. Their cancer immunotherapy advancements focus on the treatment of HBV-related hepatocellular carcinoma since that form of cancer is the most common in the Asian region. The benefit of their technology is that it uses the patient’s own immune system to fight against viral infections and cancers. Their technology has proven to be a safe way to target specific cells which allows them to prevent cancer cell seeding and achieve tumour regression.
These startup companies are only a few of the major players in Singapore’s market. The growth of biomedical sciences in correlation with Singapore’s diverse population, its strength in biomedical research, and it’s a flourishing environment for research and development give this country the ability to contribute to solving many future medical challenges. Singapore’s future looks promising as it continues to fund and develop these biotech startups. Who knows, Singapore may just end up leading us all into better health.