Innovators Gathering Night (IGNite), is a series of fireside chats with biotech and medtech innovators to find out what ignites their passion to innovate within their fields. It is also a platform for current and future innovators to meet and network, and ignite conversations leading to collaborative opportunities.
In our first IGNite event on 12 July 2018, jointly organised by BCS and A*START Central, we invited Dr. Murray Robinson, Chief Scientific Officer of MediSix Therapeutics, to join us for a fireside chat to find out what ignites his passion in the biotech field and how he embarked on his journey in innovation and entrepreneurship.
The chat was facilitated by Dr Yeo Su Ling, vice president of the business development and commercialization unit at Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL). Firstly, Dr. Robinson gave an introduction to chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) T-cell therapy. Briefly, CAR T-cell therapy is the use of genetically engineered T cells to seek and kill cancer cells. While CAR T-cell therapy has been approved to treat some B-cell malignancies, there is a challenge in using CAR T-cells to target other types of malignancies. Using immune engineering approaches, MediSix Therapeutics develops novel CAR T-cell technologies to target T cell leukemias and lymphomas.
Having previously worked at both large companies as well as start-ups, Dr. Robinson shared his experiences of transitioning to a start-up like MediSix Therapeutics. In large companies which work on many areas, each department has a specialized role and it is difficult to get everyone to focus on a common goal, unlike in a start-up. In contrast, it is sometimes a one-man operation in start-ups and the person has to handle many issues in different areas at the same time. Dr. Robinson also spoke about the differences in the biotech start-up ecosystem in Singapore compared to the US. The biotech start-up ecosystem is more mature in the US. For example, there are 250 biotech companies within a 3 mile (approximately 5 km) radius in Boston, compared to fewer than 20 in Singapore. There are also many laboratories and business incubators available for biotech companies to grow their ventures. In the US, many venture capitalists also invest in life science technologies. Comparatively, the start-up ecosystem in Singapore is relatively young and not as developed. Nevertheless, there is much support for the burgeoning start-up community in Singapore, such as the JTC LaunchPad which provides a conducive environment for nurturing start-ups. Singapore also places a lot of emphasis on talent development, offering scholarships for individuals to pursue PhDs in the biomedical sciences.
Many logistic and regulatory barriers exist in every stage of drug development. Dr. Robinson advised biotech start-ups to avoid stacking risks. They should also focus on achieving success in one area of the market, instead of diluting their attention to addressing multiple areas.
The evening concluded with a networking session where participants met with Dr. Robinson to discuss other queries. It was indeed insightful to hear from an innovator like Dr. Robinson!
6:30-7:00pm Fireside Chat with Dr. Murray Robinson
About the speaker
Murray Robinson, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer, Medisix Therapeutics
Murray has more than 20 years’ experience in cancer research and development in biotech. First at Amgen Inc., then at AVEO Pharmaceuticals, Murray and his teams discovered cancer genes and pathways, moved drugs into the clinic, and developed innovative bioinformatics approaches to match drugs with appropriate clinical settings. His experience and expertise in cancer, as well as a personal connection to genetics led Murray to found Molquant, a company that develop tools for interpreting the functions of genes in the broader field of genomics.
Murray has recently moved to Singapore as the Chief Scientific Officer of Medisix, a local immune engineering company developing cellular therapies for cancer. Recently, MediSix Therapeutics has announced the close of a series A financing totalling USD 20 million, with investments from Lightstone Ventures, Temasek and Osage University Partners.
Murray received his Bachelor’s degree at the University of California at San Diego and his PhD at the California Institute of Technology.