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Diagnostics Development Hub To Complement Biomed Research Launched

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Singapore’s biomedical research push received a major boost with the launch of the new Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub to cater to the fast growing demand for devices that will make it faster and easier for healthcare professionals to make quicker diagnosis and deliver a better treatment outcome for patients.

Launched by Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry at Biopolis, the DxD Hub aims to develop medical diagnostics as one part of the medical technologies industry, improve healthcare through development of diagnostic solutions and accelerate productisation of new diagnostics devices. Diagnostics is one of four innovation clusters shortlisted to be funded under the $200 million Innovation Cluster Programme (ICP) which was announced by PM in October 2013.

Led by the Agency for Science and Technology Research (A*STAR), through its commercialisation division ETPL, the DxD Hub will bring together clinicians, researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs and industry professionals onto a common platform to fast track the development of clinically-validated, market-ready diagnostic tools and solutions. Through their participation, diagnostics ecosystem partners will gain experience and acquire the knowledge of taking diagnostic products through the process of validation, testing, regulation and, finally marketing and commercialisation.

The DxD Hub marked its opening with the unveiling of multiple partnerships across both public and private sectors. These include collaborations with the healthcare and academic medical community including SingHealth, National University Health System, National Healthcare Group, as well as academic research organisations like the Singapore Clinical Research Institute. Multinationals such as Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Thermo Fisher Scientific along with SMEs and start-ups such as AITbiotech, Gencurix, HistoIndex, iPtec, InvitroCue, and MiRXES are also among the early supporters of the DxD Hub. 

Accelerating Diagnostics Innovation for Economic and Healthcare Benefits

The DxD Hub serves as a cauldron to integrate expertise across various segments in the diagnostics and medical device ecosystem with the goal to accelerate the time to market for diagnostic devices and solutions.  

Institutions such as A*STAR, local universities, polytechnics, SMEs and start-ups can be partners with the DxD Hub by contributing technologies and intellectual property and clinicians can provide ideas and the requisite validation and trials prior to the transfer to the market. The DxD Hub will also involve companies at the earliest possible stage in the product development process.

For example, local start-up MiRXES, spun out from technologies developed in NUS and A*STAR, will access the DxD Hub to expedite the productisation of its devices. Professor Too Heng-Phon, Founder of MiRXES said: “DxD Hub is an essential enabler for MiRXES’ pipeline of microRNA diagnostic assays to reach the market. The expertise in the Hub will greatly aid the local and global medical community to productise diagnostic assays in an acceptable standard globally.”

Joydeep Goswami, Asia Pacific and Japan President for the Life Sciences Solutions, Thermo Fisher Scientific said, "Thermo Fisher Scientific and the DxD Hub have concluded a Memorandum of Understanding for the co-development of molecular diagnostics tests for global diseases with a focus on Asian phenotype and Asian specific diseases. The collaboration with the DxD Hub will look to offer expanded product development capabilities and resources, including access to assay content, clinical samples and regulatory assistance. Combined with Thermo Fisher Scientific’s molecular biology, genetic analysis technologies and its diverse R&D capacity (of the Life Sciences Solutions Group) the collaboration is expected to lead to novel assays targeting diseases prevalent that leverage the latest developments in Thermo Fisher Scientific’s platforms such as the Quant Studio family of Real-Time PCR instruments and the Ion Torrent next-generation sequencing systems.  Such a synergistic relationship is expected to accelerate research that will open the path to development and commercialization in Singapore, and address Asia and global needs."

Already, DxD Hub is attracting overseas SMEs to be part of the ecosystem.  Mr Lorenzo Kim, Managing Director of Gencurix, a Korean-based SME which has leveraged on the DxD Hub, shared that, “With great help from the DxD Hub and its team of highly experienced global and local industry and regulatory experts, Gencurix is successfully taking the first step by establishing a diagnostics R&D and service centre in Singapore.”

Projects in the DxD Hub’s pipeline include breast and gastric cancer early detection tests, imaging tests and devices to differentiate and identify the stages of various clinical indications such as liver fibrosis. 

“The unique feature of DxD Hub is its intimate and early involvement of the clinicians in its product developmental process. Such a forward thinking step enhances subsequent introduction of the product into the healthcare system. The partnership with Academic Medical Centres such as the SingHealth Duke-NUS AMC permits such possibilities. Surgeons, doctors, nurses will collaborate to add ‘clinical’ value to their projects,” said Dr Henry Ho, Director, Medical Technology Office, SingHealth and Senior Consultant, Department of Urology, Singapore General Hospital.

"The DxD Hub is committed to embrace a borderless One-Singapore approach to catalyse the growth of the industry so as to establish Singapore as a global hub for diagnostics innovation and development.  Singapore is both a gateway to the rest of Asia, as well as a channel to access the international markets," said Dr Sidney Yee, Chief Executive Officer of the DxD Hub.

"AITbiotech is pleased to work with DxD Hub to jointly commercialise molecular diagnostic technologies. DxD Hub has all the research and development capabilities that SMEs like us lack.  Speed and access to local and global markets are critical for our SMEs to build sustainable businesses. Such private public partnerships enable us to leverage on each other’s strengths to improve our chances of success," said Mr Alex Thian, CEO of AITbiotech.