The 4th event of our IGNite series featured Mr. Ng Choon-peng (Choon), CEO and co-founder of immunoSCAPE, a company that provides immune profiling services to academics and companies developing innovative immunotherapy for cancer and various diseases. The fireside chat session was moderated by Ms. Doralyn Chan, funding manager from Entrepreneur First.
Choon’s road to entrepreneurship started when his search for the next challenge brought him to A*STAR’s door step. Coming from a commercial background, Choon had taken a special interest in commercializing technology. He quickly realized that a major gap in the local ecosystem was the shortage of people who can translate excellent science emerging from research institutes to capture commercial value. Moreover, the local risk adverse culture (known as “Kiasu” and “Kiasee” in Singlish) deters risk taking and entrepreneurship.
Through his work at A*STAR, Choon met co-founders and scientists Alessandra Nardin and Evan Newell, inventor of immunoSCAPE’s technology platform and the rest was history.
When asked about how his diverse experiences of working in multinational corporations helped in his entrepreneurship journey, Choon highlighted his experience of expanding Leo Pharma’s business into key Asian markets as the CEO (Asia) and how that helped him in driving immunoSCAPE’s strategic entry into the US market.
Choon also shared his wisdom and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on several topics.
He advised finding people you can trust and talking to as many of them as possible to test an idea repeatedly. Every person will give his/her unique perspective but it’s up to the entrepreneur to assimilate that crowd wisdom and decide which advice to take. Choon said, “There’s no need to be all secretive about your idea. If your idea is so easily copied then perhaps you shouldn’t start your company.” That witty remark scored a bunch of chuckles from the audience.
Choon also emphasized the importance of demonstrating Proof of Value (PoV) and Proof of Concept (PoC) to raise capital. immunoSCAPE was fortunate to secure high profile clients like Genentech and the Gates foundation in its first year, and thus was able to demonstrate PoC and PoV, through these projects.
Citing an experience he had with immunoSCAPE, Choon recommended entrepreneurs to be thorough with market and customer research. The company was excited about entering China, following meetings with representatives from the Shanghai Institute of Immunology who were very enthusiastic about their platform. But when they tested idea with potential customers (companies) in China, they were firmly rejected. The platform is great but a foreign company will not be allowed to handle Chinese samples, they were told. Fortunately, they had not made investments to enter the Chinese market.
Last but not least, Choon highlighted several times that the “science must work” as science drives the business in biotech start-ups. Thorough scientific due diligence is a must for anyone looking for co-founders/owners of platform technologies.
Choon sharing his wisdom and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Through the course of this fireside chat session, it was evident that Choon, despite all his achievements, remains humble and is continuously learning through formal and informal ways such as watching “Immunology 101” videos on YouTube. His humility and diligence are the key qualities that allow him to achieve success in the many different roles that he has had over the years prior to starting immunoSCAPE.
As the session drew to a close, Choon shared his perspective on the future of Singapore’s biotech ecosystem. Choon was especially excited about the next wave of start-ups and emerging young talent. He believes that there will be more companies starting up and more funding available. Funds from Japan, China and Korea are flowing to Singapore, in search of worthy investments. He has also met impressive young talents who are getting out of their comfort zone by enrolling in undergraduate and online courses to diversify their skill sets. He believes that these talents will drive further growth in Singapore’s biotech ecosystem.
A great turnout!
In his final concluding remarks, Choon mentally prepared aspiring entrepreneurs in the audience for the tough but rewarding journey of entrepreneurship. The decision to become an entrepreneur is a personal choice one has to make, taking into consideration one’s appetite for risk with the practicalities of life (such as raising a family). With that, it was a wrap and everyone proceeded to network over food and drinks.
We hope everyone enjoyed themselves at our event and we look forward to seeing you and your friends at our next event!
Mr. Ng Choon-Peng
Co-Founder / CEO of immunoSCAPE Pte Ltd
Mr. Ng Choon-Peng (Choon) is the Co-Founder / CEO of immunoSCAPE Pte Ltd. immunoSCAPE provides immune profiling services to drug development companies and research groups focused on developing immunotherapy for cancer, infectious diseases, and autoimmune diseases. immunoSCAPE is deepening its penetration into the global market, with special focus on the US and Japan.
Previously, Choon was the Senior Director of the Pharmaceuticals and Biologics cluster in A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), responsible for formulating Singapore’s Biomedical Research strategy. Choon had an interest to commercialize technology developed by A*STAR’s research institutes.
Prior to this, he was CEO Asia for LEO Pharma, a multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Denmark. He doubled the business of LEO in 15 Asian countries by breaking new ground in key countries and pushing for professionalism in key functional areas.
Choon started his career in the Biopharmaceutical Industry in Johnson and Johnson in the US after his MBA. In Asia, he then rose through the ranks as International Product Manager, Director Sales and Marketing, and Country Manager. Prior to healthcare, Choon was a combat officer in the Army.
Choon started two other companies: Tembusu Healthcare that distributes allergy, respiratory, and dermatology products across Asia, and earlier, CrysBio that provides downstream bioprocessing for antibodies in a cheaper and faster way.
Choon holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and completed Executive Education at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland. He received a BSc (Economics) at the London School of Economics under the Singapore Armed Forces Merit Scholarship. At Ross, Choon was nominated by his peers to receive the Frank Moran Leadership Award for outstanding leadership. He is happily married and has a 14-year-old daughter.
Ms. Doralyn Chan
Funding, Entrepreneurship First
Ms. Doralyn Chan advises and supports world class tech founders at Entrepreneur First (EF) to create real impact and raise funds from investors. EF brings together the world’s most ambitious and impactful people to build deep tech startups from scratch, in the biotech, energy, hardware and enterprise sectors to name some. EF has helped over 1,000 individuals find co-founders, develop ideas, and accelerate through fundraising from the world’s best investors. Doralyn is responsible for the Singapore, Bangalore and Hong Kong portfolio companies and has helped over 50 technical founders navigate the fundraising process and develop effective funding strategies.
Prior to Entrepreneur First, Doralyn was a practising lawyer in one of the top local law firms in Singapore. She read law at the London School of Economics and Peking University. She has extensive experience in complex cross-border debt restructuring as well as advising and representing corporates in banking and financial disputes.