At BioPharma Asia 2017, we invite 40 Asia biotech companies to present their innovative offerings in our new Biotech Innovation track. Among the participating companies is BioValence, Malaysia. Prior to the event, we asked EngHung Ung, CTO of BioValence to give you a preview on what you will expect to hear from them at the event.
Q: Who is Biovalence and how is it disrupting the biotech industry in Malaysia?
Ung: Biovalence is a 5 year old start-up drug discovery company focusing mainly on the development of novel therapeutic proteins. We intend to disrupt the biotech industry both in Malaysia and worldwide by developing easy-to-upscale recombinant antiviral proteins that are capable of oral delivery and do not require cold chain transport or storage. These very safe-to-use broad spectrum proteins would initially be targeted for the companion animal market and also potentially Dengue Fever in human application.
Q:What is RetroMAD-1 and why is it the next generation anti-viral drug?
Ung: RetroMAD1 is a protein drug that is made by linking together various protein components naturally occurring in nature, each of which has its own antiviral properties. This cut and paste technology requires only cGMP fermentation that many CMO’s already possess. Downstream of that is our own refolding technology to get the proteins in their correct configuration.RetroMAD1 is very safe. We’ve not been able to even kill laboratory mice with an overdose of it yet. So far, they tolerate about 300 times the therapeutic dose well and now the limitation is the size of their stomach as it’s orally administered RetroMAD1 has shown to be effective against various human , cat , dog , shrimp and fish viruses.
Q: What is your plan in commercialising RetroMAD-1? How is it going so far?
Ung: We have formed a collaboration with the University of Cambridge to answer certain questions on protein-protein interaction that regulators may ask on the road towards commercialization. We are also in discussion with some companies that have an interest in investing in RetroMAD1 as a therapeutic for companion animals. We have actually run over a hundred batch productions of RetroMAD1 to understand upscale issues so that any party interested to partner with us is aware that we’re also looking at many developmental concerns and not just stuck in research. We have a Grant to partially sponsor us from pre-clinical studies to Phase 1 over the next 18 months after which I think it’ll be easier to get more interest. We’re also starting up a presence in Europe as Biovalence Europe to attempt to become gradually integrated into the funding ecosystem there which is much more mature than in Malaysia or this part of ASEAN for that matter.
Q: What do you foresee as the biggest challenge in bringing your research from animal studies to human trials?
Ung: As a drug that’s originating in Malaysia, our regulators – the NPCB or National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau – will have to approve our First-in-Humans trial. A major challenge is for us to communicate effectively our technical findings in a manner acceptable to them as making a novel antiviral therapeutic is something quite unexpected in Malaysia, let alone regulate and approve one for human trials. In fact, NPCB does not approve of Phase 1 studies in Malaysia generally but an exception might be made if it’s a locally-developed drug.
Q: What do you enjoy the most working with BioValence and biotech landscape in Malaysia?
Ung: Biovalence as a young company has its own energy driven by mainly young people with a passion for drug discovery and development. I enjoy our style of thinking that’s quite out of the box oftentimes. The biotech landscape in Malaysia is very challenging to say the least. Funding is difficult to obtain and we’re a bit out of the major drug discovery and development hubs of Europe and the USA.
Ung will be speaking at the 10th BioPharma Asia Convention 2017 on their project on orally delivering anti-viral protein to treat dengue and zika infection. Find out more from their website or our conference page here.
BioPharma Asia Convention, Singapore attracts over 1500 attendees annually. Topics from early R&D, clinical research, biomanufacturing, supply chain, market access, medical affairs and more are discussed extensively in the 3-day conference. Book now to join us.