Singapore scientists license lab-in-a-cartridge

January 31, 2009

Rapid, easy and affordable tests for cancer and avian flu and other infectious diseases move a step closer to patients as DYAMED Biotech Pte Ltd licenses a unique all-in-one automated diagnostic system called MicroKit from Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN).

Dyamed will set up a spin-off company to develop and produce a range of new diagnostic products as part of its agreement with Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL), the commercialization arm of Singapore's A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research).

IBN is one of the research institutes under A*STAR.

Dyamed, established by Theodore and Rose Tan in 1998 to distribute quality medical diagnostic devices in Asia Pacific, will spin off SG Molecular Diagnostics to develop a range of diagnostic devices based on the MicroKit.

The company expects to roll out a molecular diagnostic real-time PCR platform called "MicroKit AIO" as its first product for the global market by 2010.

Theodore Tan, Dyamed's Managing Director, said, "We are deeply privileged to license this exciting technology which has the potential to make the mass diagnosis of a whole host of diseases faster, better and cheaper. With the MicroKit platform, we hope to make the diagnosis of infectious diseases and cancer more timely and widespread, thus giving patients a much higher chance of combating their afflictions."

Cancer patients are among those who stand to benefit from the MicroKit's sensitive and accurate diagnostic capabilities, which enable early-stage disease detection from raw biological samples.

IBN Executive Director Jackie Y. Ying, who led the scientific team that developed the MicroKit, added, "Early detection of diseases such as cancer or avian flu is critical to enhancing a patient's chances of survival. The treatment of diseases at the early stages is usually more effective and has a greater potential for improving the long-term health of the patient.

"Our portable and automated MicroKit is also easy to operate and may be used by non-clinical personnel for mass health screenings at strategic locations, such as airports, to contain epidemics of infectious diseases like H5N1 avian flu," added Ying, who along with IBN scientists Guolin Xu, James Hsieh and Daniel Lee developed the MicroKit.

IBN's device is able to handle a wide variety of samples, including tissues and body fluids, and can perform automated gene extraction in just six minutes and gene detection within an hour, enabling substantial cost and timesavings.

Disease detection with IBN's MicroKit is much faster than conventional laboratory testing that requires 1 to 24 hours to complete.

Another key feature of IBN's MicroKit is that all the molecular diagnostics processes are carried out in a self-contained, compact cartridge that is preloaded with reagents, instead of complex, time-consuming and labor-intensive laboratory processes.

The disposable self-contained cartridge for individual biosample analysis avoids costly laboratory inaccuracies caused by cross-contamination and human error.

Ying added, "By partnering with Dyamed, we hope to provide wider access to affordable, accurate and effective tests for early diagnosis for cancer patients, as well as infectious disease screening."

Clinical trials are currently being conducted for the prototype MicroKit device.

ETPL Chairman Boon Swan Foo said, "The signing of this license agreement bears good testimony to the excellent market potential of A*STAR's technologies. Exploit Technologies has recognized MicroKit's potential at an early stage. We are happy to see the fruits of our incubation efforts in the form of a platform technology, upon which Dyamed can develop a range of profitable diagnostic devices. I would also like to congratulate Dyamed for its foresight and business acumen to spin off SG Molecular Diagnostics despite the bleak economic outlook. The ability to spot market opportunities and the courage to launch a new business in the midst of the current world economic turmoil is definitely a display of great technopreneurship, which, incidentally, is not lacking in Singaporeans. We will continue to engage Singapore companies like Dyamed to help give birth to more Singapore blockbusters."
Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology:

The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) is a member of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). It was established in 2003. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Jackie Yi Ru Ying, 42, was handpicked by former A*STAR Chairman Philip Yeo to lead the institute as its Executive Director in March 2003. She has been on MIT's Chemical Engineering faculty since 1992, and was promoted to Professor in 2001. She is among the youngest to be promoted to this rank at MIT. Under her direction, IBN conducts research at the cutting-edge of bioengineering and nanotechnology. Its programs are geared towards linking multiple disciplines across all fields in engineering, science and medicine to produce research breakthroughs that will improve healthcare and our quality of life.

IBN's research activities are focused in the following areas: IBN's innovative research is aimed at creating new knowledge and intellectual properties in the emerging fields of bioengineering and nanotechnology to attract top-notch researchers and business partners to Singapore. Since 2003, IBN researchers have produced a total of 445 papers published/in press, of which 184 were published in journals with impact factor greater than 3. IBN also plays an active role in technology transfer and spinning off companies, linking the research institute and industrial partners to other global institutions. As of September 2008, IBN has filed 637 patent applications on its inventions and the Institute is currently looking for partners for collaboration and commercialization of its portfolio of technologies. IBN's current staff strength stands at around 170 scientists, engineers and doctors. With its multinational and multidisciplinary research staff, the institute is geared towards generating new biomaterials, devices, systems, equipment and processes to boost Singapore's economy in the fast-growing biomedical sector.

IBN is also committed to nurturing young minds, and the institute acts as a training ground for PhD students and undergraduates. In October 2003, IBN initiated a Youth Research Program to open its doors to university students, as well as students and teachers from various secondary schools and junior colleges. It has since reached out to more than 26,000 students and teachers from over 190 local and overseas schools and institutions.

DYAMED Biotech Pte Ltd:

Since its foundation in 1998 by Theodore and Rose Tan, Dyamed's philosophy has been to contribute to society through the distribution of medical diagnostic kits and supplies in the Asia-Pacific. Dyamed aims to provide a growing and valuable range of high quality diagnostic and medical products with high levels of customer service.

For more information about Dyamed, please contact:
Theodore Tan
Tel: +65 6848 1028
Mobile: +65 9638 4201

Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL):

Exploit Technologies is the strategic marketing and commercialization arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Its mission is to support A*STAR in transforming the economy through commercializing R&D. Exploit Technologies enhances the research output of A*STAR scientists by translating their inventions into marketable products or processes. Through licensing deals and spin-offs with industry partners, Exploit Technologies is a key driver of technology transfer in Singapore. It actively engages industry leaders and players to commercialize A*STAR's technologies and capabilities, bridging the gap from Mind to Market. Exploit Technologies' charter is to identify, protect and exploit promising intellectual property (IP) created by A*STAR's research institutes.

For more information about ETPL, please visit
ETPL Media Contact: Ms Seeto Wei Peng
Tel: +65 6478 8443
Mobile: +65 8375 9474

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore

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