A*Star launches innovation facility for biotech start-ups

Privi Medical co-founders (from left) Dr Tee, Dr Dharmawan and Mr Prusothman at the official opening of A*StartCentral yesterday. The 983 sq m facility was first set up in March under ETPL, A*Star's commercialisation arm.
Privi Medical co-founders (from left) Dr Tee, Dr Dharmawan and Mr Prusothman at the official opening of A*StartCentral yesterday. The 983 sq m facility was first set up in March under ETPL, A*Star's commercialisation arm.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Biotech start-ups that are short of space and cash are getting a boost from a new facility providing offices and life science labs.

Called A*StartCentral, the space aims to foster innovation while helping scientist-entrepreneurs keep costs down and access mentorship and funding.

The 983 sq m facility at one-north was officially opened yesterday and is the first of its kind here. It will bring scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, incubators and accelerators together under one roof.

A*StartCentral is part of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) efforts to develop the nascent medtech and life sciences start-up scene, said the agency's managing director, Dr Raj Thampuran. These companies have to grapple with high costs, lengthy development processes - and the risk of failure.

"There is a high percentage of incubators and accelerators in Singapore which cater to digital start-ups through their dry labs, but access to physical facilities for medtech and life sciences start-ups is a gap," said Dr Thampuran at yesterday's launch event.

A*StartCentral was first set up in March under the auspices of ETPL, A*Star's commercialisation arm. It now houses at least 12 start-ups and projects, including companies spun off from A*Star research, and firms from other research institutes and abroad.

One of the companies using A*StartCentral's facilities is Privi Medical, which has developed a medical device to alleviate bleeding and pain caused by haemorrhoids, also known as piles.

"(Patients with haemorrhoid symptoms) often don't want to go to the clinic or hospital... The treatments available over-the-counter are also mostly drugs or creams," said co-founder Rena Dharmawan, a surgeon. "We wanted to develop something safe and effective which patients can use at home to treat themselves."

The company, which was incorporated last year, was born out of the the Singapore-Stanford Biodesign Fellowship - a year-long programme which aims to develop innovators in the medtech field.

Privi Medical's three co-founders - Dr Dharmawan, Dr Benjamin Tee and Mr Prusothman Raja - hope to bring the product to market in the second half of next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'A*Star launches innovation facility for biotech start-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe