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Vol 19, No. 06, June 2015   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
Generating and supporting start-up biotech companies

Universities have long been known as an excellent source for new knowledge, cutting-edge research and innovative technologies. However, universities are also considered as the birthplace of new exciting start-up companies, with the potential to make a real difference in the way we work and live. Nowhere is this more evident than the biotech sector, where innovative biotech start-ups are researching new, cost-effective therapies, developing life-saving medical devices and changing the way biomedical research is carried out.

In this issue of Asia Pacific Biotech News (APBN), we explore the theme “Start-up biotech companies”. It is most relevant that we were asked to introduce this topic, as NUS Enterprise has been spinning off and supporting biotech start-up companies over the past several decades. This support has been in the areas of IP management & licensing, generating the pipeline of biotech start-ups and providing incubation support.

IP management and licensing

Technology is the foundation of all biotech start-ups. Recognizing the importance of protecting the rights to novel technology, the NUS Industry Liaison Office (ILO), a part of NUS Enterprise that manages NUS’ intellectual property (IP) evaluates invention disclosures, formulating IP strategies and applying for patents. Leveraging upon ILO’s wide industry networks, NUS has successfully commercialized over 300 technologies, with more than 300 licensing deals to date. In this manner, ILO bridges academic research and industry, through encouraging the translation of new discoveries and inventions into innovative products and services.

One good example of this is Clearbridge Biomedics, a biomedical spin-off from NUS that was co-founded by Professor Lim Chwee Teck from the NUS Department of Bioengineering and Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Mr Johnson Chen, the Managing Director of the company. The company was established in 2010 and has already commercialized an NUS technology into a medical device for the cancer research market. Clearbridge Biomedics are in the process of validating that their device can also be used in cancer diagnosis, cancer management and personalized cancer therapy. In this issue of APBN, Mr Chen shared some of his experience on growing the company rapidly, through forming strategic partnerships.

Another good example of a start-up company that licensed NUS technology is Endofotonics.The co-founders, Professor Ho Khek Yu and Associate Professor Hwang Zhi Wei, are both academics-turned-entrepreneurs, from the Department of Medicine and NUS Department of Biomedical Engineering respectively. Their article covers the challenges that a young biomedical start-up faces, from translating an innovation into a commercial product.

Generating the pipeline of biotech start-ups

Finding academics who are willing to take the plunge and set up a biomedical venture is not easy. Even for those faculty members who are risk-takers, starting a company is a tremendous challenge, as they do not have the relevant expertise or networks. To help generate a pipeline of successful biotech start-ups from within the University, NUS Enterprise has a number of initiatives to encourage academics-entrepreneurs to consider the start-up route. One such program that was launched in 2013 is the Lean LaunchPad @ Singapore (LLP) initiative. My colleague Susan Kheng from ILO shares details on the LLP program, including some of the life sciences related teams and spin-offs.

Providing incubation support

The start-up journey is no walk in the park, and biomedical start-ups face numerous additional hurdles. NUS Enterprise adopts a holistic approach to provide the necessary support and incubation to start-ups, to help them grow, scale and expand beyond Singapore shores. A prime example is AYOXXA, a company supported by NUS Enterprise. The company has offices in Germany and Singapore, that enable them to reach out to global markets and financing, whilst leveraging on the R&D expertise in NUS. In AYOXXA’s article, Dr Marion Lammertz, Marketing Manager AYOXXA provides details on how the company has been developing and commercializing its technology, through working with research institutions.

NUS Enterprise looks forward to working closely with our spin-off companies and incubated start-ups, as they grow and venture into global markets, developing groundbreaking products and technologies that have the potential to change the world.

Irene Cheong
Director NUS Industry Liaison Office
NUS Enterprise

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