Fortitude at the Forefront

Amidst the highs and lows of 2020, MiRXES managed to rise to the occasion and make our name on a global stage.

For many of us at MiRXES, 2020 can be summed up in a single word: Fortitude. Not only is Fortitude the name of the COVID-19 test kit we continue to manufacture to this day, but it also best represents the courage and resilience our company has shown amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Having cemented our reputation as a world leader in miRNA technology with the 2019 release of GASTROClear—our early-detection test for gastric cancer—MiRXES started the new decade with a bang. Alongside our partners at the National University of Singapore (NUS), we organized the inaugural non-coding RNA (ncRNA) symposium in early January 2020, flying in renowned experts from all over the world.

In April, we also established a MiRXES subsidiary in Tokyo, Japan. As some of the world’s highest gastric cancer rates can be found in Japan, the expansion was the natural next step in our ongoing quest to deliver GASTROClear to people who will most benefit from the test.

Professor Takahiro Ochiya, MiRXES scientific advisory board member, speaking at the ncRNA Symposium in January 2020.

Rising to the COVID-19 challenge

Yet, less than a month after the resounding success of the ncRNA symposium, MiRXES—like many other companies around the world—suddenly had to face our most formidable foe yet: COVID-19.

By the first week of February, scientists at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) had already developed the Fortitude test kit. Based on the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), Fortitude detects and amplifies SARS-CoV-2 genetic material found in patient samples.

With the rising tide of COVID-19 cases across the world, A*STAR approached MiRXES to scale up Fortitude’s production—completing technology transfer within one week. Working tirelessly even during Singapore’s circuit breaker, our team quickly repurposed production lines to manufacture 100,000 tests per week. By mid-year, we were producing one million tests every week, with Fortitude reaching the shores of over 40 countries worldwide.

While early cancer detection remains at the core of MiRXES, the pandemic represented a unique opportunity for the company to step up when the world needed our help the most. By staying true to our mission to save lives through innovative diagnostics—regardless of disease—it can be said that MiRXES rendered a ‘national service’ of sorts by mass producing the Fortitude test kits.

The MiRXES production team worked tirelessly, even through the Circuit Breaker, to produce enough Fortitude COVID-19 tests for our customers in over 45 countries worldwide.

We reap what we sow

Now that many parts of the world have largely passed the peak of COVID-19, we are now refocusing our efforts on cancer. Despite—or perhaps because of—the highs and lows of 2020, MiRXES is much more well-positioned to expand our cancer diagnostics portfolio. With our newfound experience gained from delivering Fortitude to various countries, we can apply the lessons learned to ensure the smooth release of GASTROClear in these same locations when the time comes.

This year has also proven right our decision to first prioritize building capability and capacity. Without the miRNA expertise, talent and facilities we had amassed through the years, MiRXES wouldn’t have been able to heed the call for Fortitude production as quickly as we did.

Beyond the pandemic’s shadow, 2020 also marked several milestones for the company. In two landmark studies published in Gut and PNAS, our scientists demonstrated the effectiveness of GASTROClear and our lung cancer detection tests. Along with our partners and the Singapore Manufacturing Federation, we also launched the world’s first-ever national standard for miRNA-based molecular diagnostics—the Singapore Standard 656. Taken together, the publications and standard represent the fruit of MiRXES’ focused efforts over the past eight years.

As 2020 comes to a close, the many achievements of MiRXES even in these trying times suggest that bigger and better things are in store in the years to come. Do continue to watch this space, and we wish everyone a delightful holiday season ahead!