This Biotechnology CEO is Using Advanced Technology to Find Cures For Debilitating Diseases
Rapid digitalisation throughout the globe, spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic, is sparking a race among the most forward-looking businesses to innovate and disrupt the way humans live and create new possibilities for the greater good. At Franklin Templeton, its experts are committed to pursuing investment excellence for their clients by identifying and investing in companies that have the potential to make a difference in the world we live in.
The global investment firm celebrates 30 years in Singapore this year. It has grown its presence here from a research office in 1990 into the Asia headquarters of one of the largest asset management firms in the world.
An innovative approach to asset management continues to guide the firm’s investment philosophy. It has funds that invest in companies driving innovation and digital transformation in industries such as biotechnology, digital disruption and technology which the three entrepreneurs from our Gen.T community featured here individually represent. Disruptors Jeffrey Lu, Christel Quek and John Cheng, who are at the forefront of their respective fields, share their insights on the rising industry trends they believe in and how they are working to address some of today’s most pressing issues.
In this first part of a three-part series, we speak to Lu about how his company Engine Biosciences is using technology to unlock drug discovery.
Advancing Global Healthcare With Cutting-Edge Technology
The race to find a cure for Covid-19 has dominated headlines this year, but this does not mean research to find treatments for other diseases should be halted or slowed down.
“It is tragic that Covid-19 has claimed nearly one million lives globally in 2020. Yet it’s also important to remember that this, unfortunately, pales in comparison to the lives claimed by other diseases,” says Lu, who is the co-founder and CEO of Engine Biosciences. His biotechnology company uses advanced technologies such as gene editing, data science and machine learning to accelerate the discovery of efficient therapies for cancers and other diseases.
“We need to be steadfast and committed to R&D for all debilitating diseases,” he urges. “The timelines to generate new treatments and diagnostics are measured in decades and would be adversely impacted if we pivot away too much, at great cost to humanity.”
So far, Engine Biosciences has achieved promising developments in the high-tech platform’s application in multiple types of cancer, neurodegenerative disease, dermatology and infectious diseases. This, of course, includes the coronavirus.
“By virtue of Engine’s broadly applicable technology platform for precision medicine and drug discovery, we can do quite a bit to enable better therapies and predict patient responses to drugs for Covid-19,” says Lu. The company is currently in confidential discussions with multiple groups regarding this.
The timelines to generate new treatments and diagnostics are measured in decades and would be adversely impacted if we pivot away too much, at great cost to humanity.
The company has also established the world’s largest datasets and knowledge base on an area of precision cancer medicines called synthetic lethality, totalling more than 80 billion data points and tens of thousands of experimentally validated disease-driving gene combinations.
With a growing maturation in the research ecosystem in Asia and a significant increase in interest in Asian biotechnology and healthcare, more breakthroughs can be expected in the near future. “Asia comprises half of the world’s population, with different genetics and disease profiles, so precision medicine will necessarily have unique aspects,” says Lu. “The biotechnology industry has never been more vibrant, diverse, and well-positioned to deliver impact.”
Invest In The Future Of Healthcare
Franklin Biotechnology Discovery Fund
The single industry-focused fund invests in companies and research firms that specialise in emerging pharmaceuticals, medical technology and life science tools. Launched in 2000, it seeks potential growth from the biotechnology sector, driven by new drug innovations and long-term healthcare demand from trends such as an aging population.
For more information on Franklin Templeton's investment philosophy and its funds, visit franklintempleton.com.sg.
- Photography Darren Gabriel Leow