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A*STAR spinoffs take 5 spots in ’10 of Singapore’s Hottest Biotech Startups’

9-Oct-2017 (Mon)

This is an extract from the original article 10 of Singapore’s Hottest Biotech Startups” published on 9 Oct on AsianScientist.


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.



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.


Lion TCR

Hailed as the next frontier in cancer treatment, cancer immunotherapy turns the immune system into a tumor killer. To harness this capability of the immune system, Lion TCR was set up in 2015 by Dr. Victor Li Lietao and Professor Antonio Bertolleti. Bertolleti is the research director and program director at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences.

Scientists at Lion TCR modify a protein on a specific subset of immune cells known as T cells to make them home in on cancer cells in the body. Lion TCR is tailoring its approach to the treatment of virus-induced cancers such as liver cancer, and three of its six candidate ‘living drugs’ have entered into clinical trials.


Lucence Diagnostics

With a focus on the rapid detection of cancer in a non-invasive manner, Lucence Diagnostics, a Singapore-based clinical laboratory and international molecular diagnostics company founded in 2016, has developed a liquid biopsy test for cancer diagnostics and assessment of cancer risk. The diagnostic tests have a turnaround time of 48 hours and help identify mutations in cancer cells that can be used by oncologists to guide therapy.

Lucence Diagnostics recently emerged among the top five startups at the SLINGSHOT@SWITCH2017 competition which saw more than 900 applicants spanning 16 countries present their technologies and business ideas. CEO and founder Dr. Tan Min-Han received a grant of S$100,000 from SPRING Singapore to continue building his company and vision.



Cancer cells are known to release specific molecules known as micro-RNAs (miRNA) into the blood that betray their presence in the body. MiRXES, a spin-off from A*STAR’s Bioprocessing Technology Institute, capitalizes on this unique signature of cancer cells to perform cancer screening.

Founded in 2014 by Professor Too Heng Phon, Dr. Zhou Lihan and Dr. Zou Ruiyang, the company has four cancer test kits at varying stages of development and clinical validation. MiRXES has collaborations with clinical and academic institutions in China, Japan, Korea and the US, as well as industry partners such as Johnson and Johnson.



Original article “10 of Singapore’s Hottest Biotech Startups” published in AsianScientist.