InvitroCue, a Singapore-based biotech company, made its debut on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX: IVQ) on Jan 27 2016, – just four years after its founding. The company, a spin-off from A*STAR, announced that it had raised an AUD 3.15 Million (SGD3.17 Million) on the ASX through a reverse takeover. On March 1st, 2016, they announced the expansion of their cell-based laboratory facility in China.
In a chat with Biotechin.Asia, InvitroCue Co-founder Dr Steven Fang along with Dr. Abhishek Ananthanarayanan, one of the first pioneering members spoke about their technology, challenges faced, future prospects and insights gleaned over the course of years.
Your company recently announced the expansion of your cell-based laboratory facility to China?
The expansion of InvitroCue to China is part of our strategic investment plans for China, to meet the current and future growth of the drug development in China.
The laboratory facility shall provide preclinical testing services to biopharmaceutical clients in Suzhou Industrial Park and in the greater Shanghai areas. InvitroCue China provides full-service offerings in cell-based assaying services, which include custom tissue development service, in vitro toxicology and in vitro skin and cosmetic product safety testings.
With these capabilities, the Suzhou laboratory facility will be able to support multinational companies in developing and testing new drugs and cosmetics products.
Why did you decide to launch in China?
Cosmetics spending patterns in China and the emergence of e-commerce are expected to drive up cosmetics sales in China. Animal tests are no longer mandatory for non-special use cosmetics produced in china – a move towards ending animal testing of cosmetics.
Dr Li Qushi, Head of Operations, China Business Unit, Suzhou explains, “We know that many cosmetics companies will be keen to sell in China without the risk that their products are tested on animals in China. We are pleased to broaden the in vitro assays to testing requirements for the domestic skin products. We hope to make progressive steps in this area and contribute to the non-animal testing movement.”
What are the things to remember when thinking of potential exits?
When you are looking for potential exit for the company, you should keep your eyes on the horizon – the global market – as it is important to identify a compatible match between your company and market demand. We choose ASX because ASX has a better market understanding for early-stage biotech companies. Singapore and United States stock markets are more suited for mid-to-large size companies, However, it does not preclude us from being listed in other markets when opportunities arise down the road.
What are the points to remember when venturing into foreign markets like China?
Dr. Steven Fang: China is a big market with a lot of growth opportunities but its a different market. We spent the last year trying to understand the market, and established our presence by working with partners and understanding how the overall healthcare system works.
1) You need to be focussed, you need to know exactly which area or part of the market you want to enter. One of the mistakes that many companies make is that they think, “Ah since we are going there, let’s try a few more things.” Trying a few things typically becomes one of the key reasons for failure, even for big companies. So, Focus. Let it be small success but get going, develop some credibility and then people will come to you.
2) Hire good local people. Many companies think about just sending their people there, but I say, localisation is the key to get anything off the ground.
3) Have a clear understanding of the regulatory policies of that country. A lot of companies, especially in our space, underestimate the effort needed to overcome the regulatory or to meet regulatory requirements.
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