Singapore decided to become a global biotechnology hub in 2000 and, although it is still awaiting its big break in the industry, it is currently a leading hub in the APAC region for R&D, biopharmaceutical manufacturing and commercial operations, with a growing startup ecosystem which includes many biotechnology companies.
In 2000, the Singapore government made biomedical research the fourth pillar of the city’s economy, known as the National Biomedical Sciences Strategy. Then, in 2003, as part of this initiative, the country created Biopolis, a tailor-made biomedical R&D center. Over the next twenty years, billions of dollars were invested in the life sciences sector.
Today, despite the presence of global companies in the region, Singapore is still focused on developing its own biotechnology community. And as it draws on its network of leading universities and research institutes, several companies are springing up across the country.
In this article, we look at six such companies (in alphabetical order), all of which are showing growth in different areas of the biotech industry in Singapore.
Having secured $3 million in seed funding In April this year, Singapore-based biotechnology company Albatroz Therapeutics is developing therapeutic antibodies against a new target that degrades the extracellular matrix (ECM). The novel ECM degradation target is a protein complex activated by a glycosylation pathway, which plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of solid tumors and arthritis – the two indications the company is currently focused on.
While at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology (IMCB), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore, Fred Bard, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and scientific co-founder of Albatroz, discovered the pathway that controls protein glycosylation and leads to ECM degradation. Studying this pathway led to the discovery of the company’s new target, which is exposed on the cell surface after glycosylation. Activation of this target occurs specifically in tumors and arthritic synovial membranes, the connective tissue that lines the joint capsule.
Albatroz targeted antibodies have high specificity for this target, selectively reducing extracellular matrix degradation while minimizing toxicity.
Additionally, Albatroz has recently become a recognized leader in Singapore’s biotechnology community. Earlier this year, the company announced that it was the first recipient of the Amgen “Golden Ticket” in Singaporeduring which he was granted a one-year free residency in NSG Biolabs’ fully equipped, turnkey, BSL-2 certified laboratory, as well as additional facility benefits and connections to scientific and business leaders from Amgen.
A Singapore synthetic biology startup, Allozymes’ mission is essentially to disrupt traditional manufacturing methods through rapid and sustainable enzyme engineering. The company points out that using chemical processes to make ingredients is highly polluting, while current methods of isolating natural ingredients from plants and animals are also environmentally damaging, as they typically use large volumes biomass, energy, water and land. This is why the Singapore-based biotechnology company wants to create custom-designed enzymes; in order to solve this problem in a sustainable and scalable way.
Allozymes used proprietary microfluidic technology to build its next-generation enzyme engineering platform, capable of building and testing millions of enzymes per day. This increases the chances of success in developing the most efficient enzymes. This is also important because, generally speaking, finding new useful enzymes is a complex and slow process, so the fact that Allozymes can screen up to around ten million enzymes per day represents a significant improvement. in this area compared to the use of traditional robotics. technology.
Allozymes also has a partnership with GenScript, a global biotechnology group. As part of this collaboration, Allozymes provides an ultra-high throughput screening service for applications in various industries, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food and beverage, while GenScript provides construction and expression of mutant libraries.
Singapore-based biotechnology company Gero works in the area of longevity, hoping to cure the root causes of chronic diseases and slow aging itself. It is a preclinical-stage company focused on creating therapeutic products through the use of AI, with its GERO.AI platform being used for drug discovery purposes.
The Company’s approach is to apply machine learning algorithms from the physics of complex systems to create clinically relevant disease progression models from real human data and identify disease groups with common biology. After that, AI-enhanced genetic study of progression patterns, in conjunction with whole exome sequencing data, reveals new therapeutic targets potentially applicable to multiple indications simultaneously.
Gero also has a platform called GeroSense, which creates digital biomarkers to measure health changes via a smartphone with a precision blood test.
In January 2023, Gero announced that it had entered into a research collaboration with Pfizer to apply its machine learning technology platform to discover potential targets for fibrotic diseases, using large-scale human data.
Hummingbird Bioscience – Who raised $125 million in Series C funding in 2021, led by Novo Holdings – attempts to show a new way of designing precision biotherapeutics that can define the future of precision medicine, with a focus on important biologically validated targets in cancer and disease autoimmune disorders that were previously elusive and difficult to treat. .
The Singapore-based biotechnology company has a proprietary Rational Antibody Discovery platform, which it uses to discover and design precision therapies, and unlock the therapeutic potential of these targets. It then uses biomarker-based clinical trials to maximize the likelihood of successful clinical development.
Hummingbird’s lead candidate (currently in Phase 1b trials) is HMBD-001. It is an anti-HER3 monoclonal antibody, meaning it targets HER3, which is a potent driver of tumor growth and resistance to anticancer drugs because its activation is driven by dimerization with HER2 and EGFR, triggering the MAPK/PI3K signaling pathway which promotes division and growth of cancer cells. HMBD-001 is designed to bind strongly and specifically to the dimerization interface of HER3, allowing it to interfere with the ability of HER3 to dimerize and block its activation.
In May this year, Hummingbird announced that he had entered under a clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with Merck to evaluate HMBD-001 in combination with Merck’s cetuximab in non-small cell lung squamous cell carcinoma.
Singapore-based biotechnology company KBP Biosciences has built a proprietary discovery platform that it says incorporates world-class processes for the identification of novel compounds based around two core areas: organ protection and anti-infection. The platform includes a substantial compound library, large volume screening and optimization techniques, and a pharmacology experimentation platform to evaluate the pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) and toxicology of various novel drug candidates. The platform has generated each of KBP’s candidates currently in clinical and preclinical development.
KBP’s small molecule compound library includes rich chemical entities composed of compounds designed and synthesized by the company with unique chemical structures and high potency, compounds synthesized based on different basic structures that cover almost all known basic structures, as well as a library of natural product compounds. extracts of plants, marine organisms and microorganisms.
On Monday October 16, it was announced that Novo Nordisk had accepted acquire ocedurenone for the treatment of uncontrolled hypertension, with potential application in cardiovascular and renal diseases, from KBP for up to $1.3 billion. Ocedurenone was KPB’s lead candidate and is an orally administered small molecule nonsteroidal mineralocorticoid receptor (nsMRA) antagonist that is currently in phase 3 trials.
Headquartered in Singapore, with locations also in Boston and Shanghai, RVAC Medicines is an mRNA platform company, focused on the development and commercialization of mRNA therapeutics and vaccines across a broad range of disease areas, including COVID-19.
In fact, earlier this year the biotech company received approval from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to initiate a Phase 1b clinical trial in Singapore to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of three COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidates. Candidates include an ancestral strain vaccine, an Omicron strain vaccine, and a bivalent vaccine candidate containing components of both ancestral strains and Omicron.
Additionally, in March of this year, the RVCA announced a research collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, which focuses on the discovery and development of mRNA vaccines capable of modulating the body’s normal immune response as possible treatments for certain autoimmune diseases and allergies.
And, more recently, in June this year it was announced that the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will provide funding of up to $3 million to advance and accelerate the manufacturing process for RVAC’s next-generation mRNA vaccine platform technology. The reason for this partnership is that, through innovative manufacturing approaches, RVAC’s mRNA platform could accelerate the manufacturing of mRNA vaccines and help get doses into arms more quickly when responding to future outbreaks. or pandemics.
Singapore’s biotech scene: looking to the future
Singapore’s position as a leading R&D hub in the APAC region, together with its considerable investments in life sciences and its network of leading universities and research institutes, means that it has the potential to further develop its biotechnology sector in the years to come. Additionally – as shown by the fact that many of the companies listed in this article are startups – the country’s growing startup ecosystem will also allow more and more biotech companies to launch, so they can continue to advance their innovative ideas. on the world stage.