From healthcare to tourism and technology to aerospace, Singapore’s thriving economy draws and supports a broad range of industries. In 2000, biomedical research became the country’s fourth pillar, and since then, government support, including funding in the sector, has expanded considerably. With its dynamic startup culture and backing for worldwide biomedical, biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies, it is quickly becoming an emerging biotechnology hub. The COVID-19 pandemic has further sped up the process. As a result, the number of biotech startups in Singapore is increasing, with several companies receiving the necessary funding to take their businesses to the next level.
Biotechnology heads the war against COVID-19
Already an emerging industry in Singapore, the sector is now exploding because of the pandemic. Over the last year, biotechnology emerged as a powerful weapon in the fight against COVID-19 as researchers scramble to decipher the DNA of the virus and understand how the body’s immune system fights against infectious carriers. With the ongoing success, it is evident that technology plays an essential role in future populations where there is a continuous need for novel and more effective medical treatments in reducing and containing potential infections.
We explored Singapore’s promising biotech startup scene in 2020
Key players of promising biotech startups in Singapore
The biotech startup ecosystem in Singapore is flourishing, with many receiving a record amount of funding from venture capital firms, raising $360 million USD despite the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic. As with any sector, some significant players are paving the way for the biotechnology revolution in this nation. Here are some of the companies to watch out for as the industry evolves.
A cancer diagnostic startup co-founded by Associate Professor Too Heng-Phon and Dr Zhou Lihan in Singapore, MiRXES has secured $77 million USD from investors in a Series C round of funding. The first of its kind, the company has successfully developed cancer detection test kits using blood samples. It seeks to push this innovation towards commercialisation around the world with this investment.
The startup has raised a total of $120 million USD to date, bringing the company’s valuation to $500 million USD, a promising step towards a possible future public offering.
Synthetic biotech startup Allozymes recently raised $5 million USD in a seed funding round led by Temasek Holding’s deep science arm, Xora Innovation. SOSV, TI Platform Management, and Entrepreneur First were among the other investors to take part in the round.
The company aims to solidify its manufacturing and business infrastructure with the goal of delivering greener, cleaner and more sustainably produced raw materials on a larger scale using specially designed enzymes.
Singaporean biotech startup ImmunoScape received $14 million USD in investments after a fundraising round co-led by Singapore’s Economic Development Board’s corporate investment arm, EDBI. Including the firm’s existing investors Anzu Partners from the US and University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners in Japan, total funding will push the startup’s valuation to around $37.9 million USD.
The firm aims to expand its operations in Singapore and the US, scaling its laboratory in San Diego while advancing its immune-profiling and drug discovery technologies with this funding.
Another local startup, Hummingbird Bioscience, raised $125 million USD in a Series C round with life science investor Novo Holdings and existing investors Heritas Capital, SK Inc, and Mirae Asset Venture Capital. This funding injection comes after a successful Series B funding in December 2019, where the company raised $19 million USD, followed by an additional $6 million USD in May of last year.
Other investors who took part in the round were EDBI, Octagon Capital, Frazier Healthcare Partners, Morningside Ventures and Ally Bridge Group.
Lastly, Gero managed to bring in $2.2 million USD in a Series A round led by Bulba Ventures last year, taking its total capital to over $7.5 million USD. Participating in the round were investors and serial entrepreneurs in various fields, including AI, IT, and pharmaceuticals.
The company will use the financing to enhance its patented AI platform to identify treatments for chronic ageing-related issues and other complex disorders.
Asia continues to be an important seedbed for pharmaceutical businesses worldwide, and we can anticipate Singapore to become a hub for new business models and partnerships in the future. The country’s role as a leading biomedical science centre in the heart of Asia makes it an attractive location for biotech companies to create and produce revolutionary products to better meet the region’s healthcare demands.
Furthermore, the country’s world-class infrastructure, talented workforce, supportive government policy initiatives, and backing from both the public and private sectors demonstrate that this city-state is capable of tackling future hurdles in the industry.
The success of these biotech startups in Singapore will attract more investments and initiate a positive cycle of credibility and funding that will strengthen the country’s position as a focal point for biotechnology innovations.