In this week’s Community Feature, we speak to Ivan Lew from
Biolidics Limited, a medical technology company that aims to bring clarity to cancer.
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi everyone. I’m Ivan Lew, CEO of Biolidics Limited. We are a disruptive medical technology company focusing on the separation of CTC in a person’s blood through seven ml of a person’s blood, and this breakthrough technology comes from NUS itself, MIT and University of Cincinnati.
How is Biolidics disrupting the innovation or MedTech?
What we do is that the present standard is an invasive method call biopsy where you go into a person’s body through surgery to take out a piece of the cancer cells. What we’re doing is that we actually take a tube of blood and minimum or limited invasiveness, and we are able to separate the cancer cells from the tube of blood.
Biolidics has developed and commercialised the ClearCell® FX1 System, a fully automated CE- IVD medical device that can separate and enrich wholly intact and viable CTCs from small amounts of blood.
The wholly intact and viable CTCs isolated can then be used in various downstream applications throughout the various stages of a patient’s cancer journey, from cancer screening and staging to personalised treatment, and post- cancer monitoring.
Who does this actually help and what does it actually do?
Cancer patients. What it does is that a cancer patient will go through a test, an X-ray, a PET-CT scan. It tends to be quite invasive in that sense and some part of the body, you can’t do a biopsy. For example, the middle lobe of a lung. So what we do is that we just take a tube of blood.
Secondly, through various stages of a cancer patient’s treatment, they have to go through a barrage of PET-CT scan and so on, which can be quite harmful to the patient.
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Where is Biolidics at the moment and what’s next for the company?
We have commercialized our technology and we are moving towards more commercial applications such as lab-developed tests. A lab has to say that they are able to repeat these with a certain specificity and they can offer this as a diagnostic treatment for a cancer patient, thereby commercializing the service and populating the use of our technology and equipment. So we are aiming to conduct lab-developed tests to achieve IVD status, which IVD status means that the lab-developed tests can be offered healthy people as their annual health screening test, which is a blue ocean strategy for us.
What is your driving force for finding the technology to help cancer patients
I think the foresight of the founder was key. He brought this technology from MIT and the University of Cincinnati, which was partnering NUS at that point. They call it Dean Flow Fractionation. It is a certain flow that is able to split red blood cells, white blood cells and cancer cells away from one another so that we can collect the cancer cells itself. That was the theory that came out from the learning institution where this company took the patents and designed the equipment and the one-time use biochip that allowed the theory to become practical.
The commercialised stage that we are in a couple of years ago was for research use only, people just do research, splitting Cancer cells for research. But now, we have positioned our technology and equipment towards a lab-developed test approach, which means that diagnostic labs can use it for cancer patients, with a certain protocol that is designed to help the doctors and patients understand the count of the cancer cells and see what kind of cancer they have based on the cells.
Is this technology already being utilised in hospitals?
For hospitals, there are various countries, various regions and various standards. At the present moment, the hospitals in Singapore are using our technology and equipment under investigative use only. In SGH by Professor Choong Hui Lin, on a very small scale. What we are doing now is we are doing it in China on a more global scale, where we are working with 2 service labs to validate these lab-developed tests using our technology and products.
We can save patients and at the same time, we can make money. That’s where we are heading at the moment. At the same time, we are also offering this same service in due course in various parts of the Asia Pacific and even Europe, using our technology and machines.
What are the challenges you faced in these ten years since the start of Biolidics?
Most tech companies take about 10-17 years even to reach maturity. There are a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Many of them may not even get there. I think the good part of it is that some of the investors are very financially savvy and have a lot of good knowledge of how businesses are supposed to be run. The technology is good, people may work very hard but they may not know how to do business. That was what was missing at that point. When I came over and the shareholders have given clear direction that we need to commercialise it, that’s where we are today.
How did you commercialise Biolidics? What was the changing point?
First part is the machine has always been there for the last few years, in the research use market, which is only 3 per cent of the cancer diagnostics market, which is a 168 billion dollar market. 3 per cent is quite pathetic. All you need to do is make it into a lab-developed test, which for some part I think is knowledge, the ability of the people is the other and a bit lacking here and there. They know their stuff very well but the business part is a little bit lacking. We’ve got another 30 per cent of the market now, so Biolidics will continue to do our RU(Research Use) market, 3 per cent, and moving towards the LDT (Lab-developed test) market and the health screening for the general public.
How can we help?
We are always looking for partners. Our technology is so good that we are able to spin out live cancer cells, we are probably the only one that is able to do that. With the live cancer cells, we are able to branch out to many different downstream applications. These downstream applications allow doctors to have a different perspective and to help more cancer patients, for better prescription of medicine. At the same time, move towards the pharmaceutical market where they would be able to test whether their development drugs works or not. How can you help us is one, the exposure and second is the lead to larger investors such as Temasek Holdings. I think if Temasek or GIC would be interested in a company like ourselves, that would be wonderful.
Watch the full video interview with Ivan Lew from Biolidics Limited here:
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