With a land area of 1,108 square kilometers, Hong Kong is one of the smallest countries in Asia. The country, which is dependent on international trade and finance, has a healthcare market that is projected to hit $67.26 million this year.
The country, which is home to over 250 biopharma companies, is a popular initial public offering (IPO) destination for the sector.
But since the start of the pandemic, the country has found it difficult to attract talent to the city, owing to stringent Covid regulations, according to a report by Bloomberg.
Yet, the country’s fluctuating medtech industry with regard to its demand over the past two years, is progressing with the advent of 3D printing technology and robotics.
As the country’s biotech industry is set to gradually grow over the next few years, here are six companies in Hong Kong that are paving their way in the field of biotechnology.
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Set up over ten years ago in Fo Tan, Hong Kong, ALiA BioTech specializes in molecular diagnostics and has developed its Point of Care platform that can perform immunoassays within 15 minutes. Like this test, the company also sells its Covid 19 rapid antigen test which is a self-testing kit.
Moreover, the company’s Lab on Chip platform uses microfluidic technology to create a biochip that offers the ease of diagnosis without the need for a laboratory. The immunoassays test can measure the presence of certain proteins for the diagnosis of various diseases.
Another technology that the biotech focuses on is the BioChip. The BioChip is able to detect a number of respiratory-disease causing pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, RSV, Streptococcus, Influenza A and Influenza B as well as sexually transmitted and gastrointestinal diseases.
As various food tech companies join the race against factory farming to develop cell-cultured meat, Avant Meats is a Hong-Kong based biotech offering alternatives to conventional methods of farmed meat, fish in particular.
The first step is to isolate samples of cells from fish, which are then fed nutrients to aid in the growth of the cells in the medium. The company owns Avie, which is its proprietary cultivated fish product which is ready-to-cook. To promote the scale-up of its cultivated fish product, Avant Meats partnered with Singapore-based research center A*STAR Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) to introduce its products to the Singaporean cultured meat markets.
Additionally, Avant Meats has a skincare line that sells Zellulin, a novel active ingredient derived from marine proteins with enhanced collagen-like properties. The ingredient boosts anti-oxidation and reparation of skin – key features that skincare products aim to address. Zellulin can be applied topically along with moisturizers as well as incorporated in drinks and supplements.
Last year, the company raised $10.8 million in funds from a series A round led by sustainable development investment firm S2G Ventures.
E Farm Biotech
Hermetia illucens, commonly known as the black soldier fly, has been crucial to recycling organic waste and generating animal feed, a characteristic that was only recently discovered. Capitalizing on the insect’s potential in agriculture, E Farm Biotech is invested in tackling the food supply crisis as well as climate change exacerbated by landfills.
Located in the Sheung Shui district in Hong Kong, E Farm Biotech harvests the flies – which have a month-long life cycle. The company collects the bug droppings during its larval stages, as upon pupation, they stop feeding. Then, through fermentation, bug manure is produced, which helps revitalize the soil in farmlands. The insect excrement is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the essential trio in fertilizers.
Moreover, the company is also studying how it could extract lauric acid from the organism, a possible means to replace fish oil in pharmaceuticals, and its high protein content could be a nutritional alternative to be added to our diets.
Founded in 2018, E Farm Biotech is supported by the Recycling Fund which was awarded by the Hong Kong Government.
Situated in the district of Wan Chai in Hong Kong, biotech company Codex Genetics has developed its CoGenesis platform supported by bioinformatics, to diagnose different kinds of diseases including cancers, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. The company’s tests are minimally invasive as only a saliva sample is required, after which researchers extract the DNA to identify specific disease-causing variants.
In the case of cancer gene mutations, where nearly a third of cancer patients have had treatment modifications due to inheritable mutations, the company offers an 11 gene test to diagnose breast and ovarian cancer as well as prostate cancer, a nine gene test to detect gastric cancer and a 12 gene test for colorectal cancer. These tests are priced at HKD 4900 ($626.2) excluding the pan cancer test, which is a 55 gene test for 11 cancer types, and costs HKD 9000 ($1,150).
The company is also focused in the field of metagenomics, which is the study of genetic material taken from clinical samples of organisms through the process of sequencing. Codex Genetics is able to identify pathogens like bacteria and viruses in patient samples to diagnose infections.
The biotech has raised a total of $41,300 in investments from a seed funding round.
Great Bay Bio
Founded in 2019, biotech company Great Bay Bio is established in Sha Tin, a neighborhood in Hong Kong. One of its proprietary technologies is AlfaCell, which combines site-specific integration (SSI) technology and AI-enabled cell selection for the development of cell lines.
Over a hundred million cell lines are screened using AI to create a superhost cell line that contains hotspots. Then, via recombination mediated cassette exchange, a more stable product cell line is developed. Notably quick, the platform has high genetic stability.
The company has also developed the AlfaMedX platform, which makes use of AI algorithms such as machine deep learning to develop mammalian cell and stem cell cultures.
These platforms are beneficial for the development of biopharmaceuticals, antibodies for in vitro diagnostics, as well as in the field of synthetic biology to produce cultured meat. The meat is produced by cultivating animal cells, for which the AlfaMedX platform is utilized. Eliminating the need to farm animals, the cultivated meat industry was valued at $246.9 million in 2022 in the U.S. and is set to grow rapidly. Great Bay Bio’s platforms contribute to this growth.
The company raised $25 million from investors like AEF Greater Bay Area Fund and Alon Capital Ltd in a series A round last year.
With facilities in the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong, Pacific GeneTech specializes in vaccine development. Its Aegis Vaccine platform employs recombinant technology to incorporate bacterial, viral or protozoan genes into microbial vectors. The vector expresses these genes by producing specific antigens in order to induce an immune response.
Unlike regular vaccines, Pacific GeneTech’s platform, which can deliver live and inactivated forms of the bacteria and viruses, provides broad spectrum cross protection and can also serve as a one-dose administration, reducing the need for multiple vaccines. The vaccines can not only be administered via injection but also orally, using a spray.
Moreover, the company’s Hercules Adjuvant system is a modified Chitosan adjuvant that can spur an immune response to different antigens. When it is administered orally, the pathogen is targeted, as secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) is released on mucous membranes. The technology has been licensed to various vaccine manufacturing companies, and has previously been used to develop a poultry coryza vaccine and a swine streptococcus suis vaccine. As part of its pipeline, the company is investigating CPH001, CPH002 and TMH001 which are animal vaccines for the treatment of Salmonella, E. coli, necrotic enteritis and Eimeria to administer to poultry, cats and pigs.
Last year, the biotech announced positive results from a clinical trial for its cross-protective vaccine that targets Salmonella in pigs, and was found to have significantly improved symptoms such as fecal shedding and weight loss, particularly in comparison to current commercial vaccines.
Founded in 2019, the company has secured $10 million in funding over one financing round.