This home-grown health research firm develops new diagnostic tools to save more lives

INEX Innovate aims to provide easier access to less invasive diagnostic tests to help women in Asia get detected and treated early for health concerns such as ovarian or breast cancer

INEX Innovate's team of women's health specialists are working on creating less invasive methods of screening to help banish the fear and anxiety associated with taking diagnostic tests. PHOTO: INEX INNOVATE

No one likes an invasive test at the clinic. 

Enter INEX Innovate, spun off from the National University of Singapore by a team of specialists in feto-maternal care and women’s oncology, which produces diagnostic test kits that banish much of the anxiety associated with such tests.

Chief executive officer Kane Black, 42, believes that with its strong background in molecular diagnostics and women’s health, the company is well-placed to cater to a largely underserved market. 

“Test kits that can detect women-specific illnesses and diseases, such as ovarian or breast cancer, through a standard blood draw can help ease any concerns or fears to do with routine health checks such as mammograms,” he says.

“Such patient-friendly, non-invasive methods of screening and testing will, we believe, encourage more women to get tested and hence treated early, vastly improving their chances of recovery.”

Many women find mammograms, a common screening procedure for breast cancer, stressful and painful. INEX’s EpiDx® test, which detects malignant breast cancer cells using blood samples, could become a diagnostic alternative by the end of this year. 

Mr Black says: “By distributing it to general practitioners, and with the minimally invasive nature of the test, INEX Innovate believes EpiDx® can encourage more women to screen for breast cancer, without the discomfort, and get treated early if diagnosed.” 

Doing its part for society

INEX Innovate switched gears briefly during the pandemic to cope with the demand for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and Covid-19 test kits. 

“We mobilised our clinical laboratory iGene Laboratory into action, quickly becoming one of Singapore’s first private laboratories to begin PCR testing for Covid-19 in 2020. To date, we’ve tested hundreds of thousands of patients,” says Mr Black. 

Mr Kane Black, chief executive officer of INEX Innovate. PHOTO: INEX INNOVATE

iGene Laboratory developed the FastCoV® RT-PCR test service, which provides results in as short as four hours.  

In December last year, it became one of Singapore’s first few labs to provide pooled saliva testing. It involves the individual rubbing his or her cheeks gently to stimulate saliva before transferring it to a collection device, and is well-suited for children and the elderly, who may find nasal swabs uncomfortable.

INEX also launched a Covid-19 PCR reagent CORO® kit which was granted provisional authorisation in September 2020 by Health Sciences Authority of Singapore. It is being mass produced, with INEX donating 100,000 kits to Indonesia last year.

To keep its finger on the pulse of health, the company has partnered with entities such as Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), National University of Singapore, National University Hospital, Jakarta-listed group PT Itama Ranoraya and Saint John’s Cancer Institute in the United States.

Its intellectual property includes 48 patents and 12 trademarks, while staff strength has grown from 12 in early 2020 to almost 50 today. 

Improving lives

INEX Innovate wants to continue the fight for better health – promoting early detection of diseases to boost chances of recovery.

On Jan 3, it launched its Human Papillomavirus RNA High Risk Screen, which detects via vaginal swab HPV types 16 and 18 that are known to cause cervical cancer. 

A product in the pipeline is XENA®, which detects ovarian cancer using blood samples, bypassing the invasive biopsy. Results from a Phase 1 study, involving more than 400 patients, have been promising, says Mr Black. 

“Thanks to our background in molecular diagnostics and testing, we branched out successfully into Covid-19 testing while still focusing on early detection of illnesses in women’s health. 

“We look forward to an exciting 2022, with new technology launches, expansion into new markets as well as our initial public offering,” says Mr Black.

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