MiRXES' Pandemic Pivot Pays Off
Armed with a wealth of experience from the pandemic, MiRXES is now set to return to its roots and focus on producing best-in-class multi-cancer early diagnostics.
2020 was anything but business as usual, but human ingenuity shone amid the uncertainty. Even as the coronavirus spread swiftly across the globe, scientists kept pace. When SARS-CoV-2 was discovered, researchers raced to sequence its genome. Institutions and companies subsequently developed diagnostic kits, drugs and vaccines—with markets rewarding them accordingly. In Singapore, pharmaceutical exports saw a 174 percent spike in April—making the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors one of the few bright spots in an uncertain economy.
Thus, MiRXES likewise pivoted to harness opportunities amid the pandemic. Though first and foremost a microRNA (miRNA) diagnostics company, we successfully leveraged our R&D and manufacturing competencies to mass produce the COVID-19 test, Fortitude. Within months, we ramped up our production capabilities to manufacture and export over five million units of Fortitude to over 45 countries.
But even as we focused our efforts on the Fortitude test kit, we continued to strengthen our portfolio of multi-cancer early detection tests. As MiRXES gradually enters the post-COVID world, we are hoping to return to our roots and prioritize the development of cancer diagnostics once more.
Cancer diagnostics on the rise
Worldwide, an estimated one in five men and one in six women will develop cancer during their lifetime. To reduce the number of lives lost to cancer, early detection is key. Accordingly, the emerging cancer diagnostics market has seen rapid growth. Worth US$6.3 billion in 2015, it is projected to more than double in the coming years, reaching US$14.8 billion by 2023. Despite the strong demand, early cancer diagnostic tests are still considered a relatively new area of research, with scarce availability in the market.
One novel method for effective and efficient cancer testing is harnessing biomarkers called miRNA that circulate in the blood. Given that miRNA levels markedly change during disease, these changes can be detected by our patented reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) technology.
This world-leading RT-qPCR technology is the foundation of our flagship product GASTROClear, the world’s first miRNA blood test for the early detection of gastric cancer. Already approved for distribution in Singapore and Europe, GASTROClear is a literal standard setter in its field as the main product used to draft the Singapore Standard 656, the world’s first national standard for miRNA-based diagnostics.
The road ahead for MiRXES
MiRXES has long invested in building our capabilities in terms of talent, R&D, intellectual property (IP) and manufacturing. This year, our investments paid off during our rapid pivot to producing the Fortitude kits. With our own products back in the spotlight post-COVID, our RT-qPCR technology, miRNA discovery panels, test kits and proprietary algorithms represent a valuable and diverse IP portfolio. These assets act as strong barriers to entry against our competitor firms, ensuring that MiRXES will continue reaping returns for years to come.
In 2021, MiRXES is set to operationalize a new in-house diagnostics lab, further adding to our competitive advantage. Already, tests for cancers ranging from lung to breast cancer are in the pipeline and are expected to be ready in the next three to four years. When integrated, our patented tests may someday be able to detect different types of cancer in their earliest stages with just a single blood draw.
Another upcoming area of focus for MiRXES precision oncology. By identifying miRNAs for different kinds of the same type of cancer, we can develop highly-specific tests that allow oncologists to predict and map out a particular patient’s response to different treatments—with all this information available through one blood test.
Turning obstacles into opportunities
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, our temporary pivot to Fortitude diagnostic kits not only bolstered our manufacturing capabilities, but also allowed us to establish large-scale distribution networks. In 2021, we will build on this existing infrastructure to fast-track the commercialization of GASTROClear and other products in international markets. At the moment, one obstacle we foresee in achieving widespread use comparable with Fortitude’s is public hesitation to take early detection cancer tests.
Properly leveraged however, this roadblock will be a key opportunity for MiRXES in 2021. In the coming year, we intend to work with clinicians, governments and community partners in selected markets to educate the public on the importance of early cancer detection to accelerate clinical adoption. By doing so, we hope to promote and distribute more of our tests worldwide while staying true to our core mission to save lives. At the same time, this enables MiRXES to establish a strong brand presence that further serves as a barrier to entry against future competitors. As the pandemic has shown, every cloud has its silver lining.