CTeD has collaborated with the industry as well as entrepreneurs to successfully commercialise Duke-NUS’s technologies. The following are some examples of CTeD’s success stories:
In an effort to revolutionise cell therapy, Duke-NUS, Monash University and Mogrify sealed an exclusive licensing agreement to commercialise EpiMogrify, a computational approach that can predict the molecules needed to keep cells healthy in a laboratory culture.
Jointly developed by researchers from Duke-NUS and Monash, this innovation is a game-changer in the field of stem cell biology, likened by one stem cell biologist to computer ‘magic’. Associate Professor Enrico Petretto and Assistant Professor Owen Rackham from the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS, who led the research in Singapore, and their colleagues focused on developing computational methods to culture and grow cells, replacing the slow trial-and-error method used by stem cell biologists.
Cellular therapy is a powerful strategy to produce patient-specific, personalised cells to treat many diseases, including heart disease and neurological disorders. But a major challenge for cell therapy applications is keeping cells alive and well in the lab. EpiMogrify’s algorithm can predict what molecules are needed to keep cells healthy in laboratory cultures. This computational approach can predict the molecules needed to signal stem cells to change into specific tissue cells, which can help accelerate treatments that require growing patient cells in the lab. This complements a previous innovation by the same team that can predict the most effective transcription factors for cell differentiation.
The press release issued by Duke-NUS on EpiMogrify is available via this link.
Duke-NUS has successfully negotiated an exclusive license with a UK and Milan-based SME, Hyris, effective from earlier this year. The licence grants an exclusive and sublicensable permit to Hyris to exploit the latest Covid-19 testing technology conceived by Prof. Antonio Bertoletti and co-workers in the form of testing kits or testing services.
Briefly, the lab’s Covid-19 testing invention is based on a patient’s blood sample eliciting a measurable response through T-cell activation when exposed to proprietary pools of Covid-19-derived viral peptides, depending on whether the patient is Covid-19 positive or negative. This invention has been captured in a Singapore provisional patent, and Duke-NUS will be remunerated through an upfront payment, royalties, commercial milestone payments and a sublicensing revenue. Hyris is a company with deep expertise in the field of genetic and diagnostic testing, with proprietary systems to provide portable testing that is decentralized and can be performed and interpreted without the need for special personnel. Through this partnership, Duke-NUS and Hyris envision a partnership that can not only be a Covid-19 testing powerhouse, but also uncover new insights into understanding the pandemic and the vaccine industry.
The press release issued by Duke-NUS on Hyris can be accessed at this link.
Duke-NUS recently inked an exclusive license with Lion TCR, a local biotechnology company to harness gene-edited T cells as part of the company’s mission to further its proprietary T cell receptors (TCRs) therapy to treat liver cancer. By combining this novel gene-editing technology with Lion TCR’s propriety library of TCRs, the company aims to further enhance TCR therapy for liver cancer and other diseases. The modified T cells could also be used to treat common conditions associated with immunosuppressant treatment, such as the reactivation of Epstein Barr Virus or cytomegalovirus in patients receiving immunosuppressants after stem cell or organ transplantation.
This novel gene-editing technology shields these modified T cells from immunosuppressants during liver transplant, allowing them to effectively destroy cancer cells that recur in the donated liver. Findings also unveiled that these ‘armored’ T cells were efficacious at killing liver cancer cells for up to four days in the presence of immunosuppressive drugs. This collaborative partnership between Duke-NUS and Lion TCR brings great hope to liver transplant patients around the world, who otherwise might not have access to this promising novel cancer therapy with their concurrent need for immunosuppressive drugs.
The press release by Duke-NUS on Lion TCR is accessible via this link.
PairX Bio is the latest addition to the family of start-ups helmed by Duke NUS Medical School. Formed in 2020 with the vision of developing first-in-class precision cancer immunotherapies, PairX utilizes a novel approach to discover cancer antigen-TCR pairs from which it develops precisely targeted cancer immunotherapies. PairX’s foundational technology relies on discerning disease patterns associated with defective mRNA splicing in cancer.
It was developed by Dr Raymond Lee, a Research Fellow in the laboratory of Dr David M. Epstein, the founding Duke-NUS Vice Dean of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Associate Professor in the Cancer & Stem Cell Biology (CSCB) Programme. Epstein and Lee devised methods of mRNA analyses that simultaneously identify and validate novel shared cancer antigens and their cognate TCRs. Dr. Epstein is currently President and CEO of Black Diamond Therapeutics, a precision oncology medicine company, and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor in Duke-NUS’s CSCB Programme.
Keeping the “bench-to-bedside” approach in medical and healthcare transformation, Duke NUS’ Centre for Technology and Development (CTeD) plays a crucial role in providing a full suite of commercialization-focused services to inventors and investors. From IP management to business-focused expertise, CTeD and the Epstein lab successfully incubated PairX Bio at Duke-NUS before forming the Singapore-based PairX Bio. Current PXB investors include local seed funds ESCO Ventures and Avendosora.
Inventor Bio: https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/content/epstein-david-m
The press release issued by Duke-NUS on PairX Bio is available via this link.
CognaLearn is a learning-science company that uses InteLearn™, a proprietary patent-pending method developed at Duke-NUS Medical School, to optimise learning based on cognitive science. CognaLearn is the first internally incubated company at Duke-NUS, and it has generated over $1 million in revenue from its education solutions for GSK, Pfizer and Takeda. Its InteDashboard™ teaching software provides faculty real-time data at 20 institutions in Asia, Australia and the United States including Duke-NUS, Yale-NUS and the University of Florida. For more information on CognaLearn’s ongoing activities, please see:
www.cognalearn.com (holding company)
www.intedashboard.com (teaching software for team-based learning)
www.medniva.com (corporate solutions for the healthcare industry)
Vanteres (formerly known as Babynostics) is developing diagnostics and treatment solutions based on the research of Professor David Silver at Duke-NUS on MFSD2a and Lysophospatidylcholine (LPC) lipids. His key discovery was published in Nature on May 2014: ”Mfsd2a is a transporter for the essential omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid”.
Leveraging the knowledge of LPC physiology and pathophysiology, Vanteres is currently developing Diagnostic tests to aid in the identification of both subclinical and pathological alterations of LPC-lipids in a number of at risk populations. In addition Vanteres is currently developing a Gen 1.0 medical food product for commercialization and launch in 2017.
Vanteres’ current and future focus will be on the development of diagnostics tests and products that provide solutions that target the following areas with unmet medical needs:
- Prenatal support of mothers with high risk pregnancies.
- Preterm and/or small for gestational age infants.
- Cognitive development of infants and young children.
The press release issued by Duke-NUS on Vanteres is available via this link.
Enleofen Bio was founded as a spin-out from National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), SingHealth and Duke-NUS Medical School. Enleofen develops first-in-class antibody therapeutics for the treatment of fibrotic human diseases. Fibrotic disorders include diseases of the skin, lungs, heart, eye and kidneys and are a major health burden in Singapore and around the world.
The initial discovery science and drug target validation was carried out at NHCS and Duke-NUS by Professor Stuart Cook and Assistant Professor Sebastian Schafer. Over five patent applications and a number of advanced antibody and inhibitor drug candidates arising from the scientific work have been licensed to the company giving it a significant head start in drug development.
Enleofen Bio aims to have its lead antibody in clinical trials within a two year time frame with the goal of developing a drug that can be used to treat multiple diseases for which there are currently no treatment options.
The press release issued by Duke-NUS on Enleofen Bio is available via this link.
Travecta is an emerging biotech company utilizing its novel Blood-Brain Barrier Transport Platform to develop a proprietary pipeline of molecules that treat disorders of the central nervous system. The Travecta Platform leverages our proprietary knowledge of the MFSD2a Transport for the targeted delivery of therapeutic agents to the brain. Our platform and know-how allow us to identify and categorize small molecules for enabling their transport across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Additionally, Travecta partners with pharmaceutical companies to apply our platform and assist them in overcoming the challenges associated with delivering drugs across the BBB. Travecta’s process allows partners to rapidly confirm BBB transport through feasibility studies that generate in vitro and in vivo transport data of their molecule generated with Travecta’s proprietary models.
Travecta was founded by experienced scientific leaders from Duke-NUS and received its initial seed-funding from TKS1, a healthcare and life science focused VC fund formed by the partnership between SPRIM Ventures and Tikehau Capital. We have offices in Philadelphia, PA and Singapore.
The press release issued by Duke-NUS on Travecta is available via this link.
Evecxia Therapeutics is a privately funded, clinical stage pharmaceutical company. In 2018, Evecxia licensed a jointly owned IP developed by Duke-NUS, NTU and NUH, which strengthens its existing patent portfolio. Under this license agreement, Evecxia has obtained exclusive, world-wide rights to develop and commercialize novel formulations for improving the bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) which is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Using this joint IP, and IP previously licensed from Duke University, Evecxia is currently developing its lead drug candidate, EVX-101, which is a unique and proprietary oral slow-release formulation of 5-HTP and low-dose carbidopa for treatment of depression and other neurological disorders.
The press release issued by Evecxia highlighting the licensing of Duke-NUS-NTU-NUH IP is available via this link.
Neurobit Technologies is a Singapore-based start-up company co-founded by Dr. Amiya Patanaik, a former Duke-NUS Research Fellow, and another colleague. While working for Duke-NUS, in Professor Michael Chee’s lab, Dr. Patanaik and colleagues co-invented a real-time automatic sleep scoring system that uses recent advances in machine learning to automatically stage sleep data. The company was established in July 2018 to commercialize this technology. Recently, the company has developed an in-house sleep analytics technology, and their focus has shifted towards using their technology to make a personalized device-agnostic physiological data analytics platform. The founders are currently raising seed funds to carry out further development of this platform for treatment of sleep apnea.
To learn more about Neurobit Technologies, please see this link.
The idea of this SARS-nCov-2 Detection kit was conceived by a team led by Professor Wang Linfa, director of Duke-NUS' emerging infectious diseases programme at Duke-NUS in February 2020 and co-developed with GenScript Biotech Corporation, a leading biotech company, and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*STAR) Diagnostics Development Hub (DxD Hub). The Centre of Technology, Duke-NUS filed a patent application very rapidly and then, with very collaborative spirit on both sides successfully negotiated and executed the licence with GenScript within a month of filing. GenScript and DxD hub did an excellent job of meeting the regulatory requirements and launching the kit within two weeks of signing the deal. This Covid-19 test kit was the first of its kind to detect specific neutralizing antibodies that are harnessed by the body against the specific coronavirus infection. The test results are received in hours, as opposed to the usual several days.
cPass can be used:
- For contact tracing;
- For reservoir or intermediate animal tracking;
- For assessment of herd immunity;
- To see what population has been infected; and
- To see if potential vaccines are effective.
Unlike other Covid-19 tests for such antibodies, the test using cPass can be carried out in most research or clinical labs and doesn’t require working with live viruses or carrying out the operations in biosafety labs.
Covid-19 Vaccine Development
In a collaboration with Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and Arcturus Therapeutics, Duke-NUS Medical School has, since April 2020, been contributing its scientific expertise, resources and time towards this vital endeavour – developing a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has caused the world so much pain and disruption during 2020. In November 2020, the company announced positive interim results from the Phase 1/2 study of its vaccine candidate, ARCT-021. As reported in BioSpectrum Asia, the vaccine “combines self-transcribing and replicating mRNA (STARR™) with LUNAR® lipid-mediated delivery technology, which is designed to enhance and extend antigen expression, enabling vaccination at lower doses.” As of November 2020, Arcturus is talking to the Regulator, Health Sciences Authority (HSA), to obtain approval to advance the vaccine into later stage clinical studies.
To speed up the development and approval process, the company may submit clinical and manufacturing data to support the safety and efficacy of the vaccine to HSA, while the clinical studies and trials are still in progress, allowing real-time analysis of the data. According to Duke-NUS Medical School’s researcher Prof Ooi Eng Eong, it would not have been possible to get the vaccine candidate from concept through pre-clinical studies to Phase 1 and 2 trials, in less than 5 months, without HSA’s willingness to accept real-time data.
EDB intends to purchase sufficient doses of this jointly developed vaccine for the entire Singapore population to be immunized. The first shipment could be available as early as the first quarter of 2021.