X-ZELL CEO reveals path to success in burgeoning biotech market
As head of one of Asia’s first Silicon Valley-backed biotech start-ups, Dr Bhakdi revealed that there were many crucial lessons he and his team had to learn the hard way.
“If you asked me what biotech is all about, I would tell you it should improve people’s lives and make medicine more efficient,” Dr Bhakdi explained.
“If you then asked me what’s holding back many businesses in this space, I’d reply that most of them lose sight of these basic goals too quickly.”
According to Dr Bhakdi, researchers regularly fail to consult practitioners and take market trends into account as they develop new assays.
The result, he said, was a situation where problems and solutions are often misaligned. “Successful companies find ways to build bridges between all stakeholders,” he reiterated.
“If you want to make a different to a patient’s life, you have to make sure your test actually reaches them. To achieve that, a doctor will have to prescribe your test. There is no other way.”
Dr Bhakdi’s TED-style presentation also revealed that X-ZELL is back in fundraising mode as the company’s first commercial product, X-ZELL Prostate, nears completion.
“I am very happy to announce that we are commencing our validation study for X-ZELL Prostate right here in Singapore,” he said.
“Starting right now, we will collaborate with a leading local hospital to make sure our test will reach the market as soon as possible.”
Dr Bhakdi also commended on the decision to hold the HealthInvestor Asia Summit in Singapore, saying as the region’s key logistics, finance and research hub, it was quickly evolving into a driving force of globalization.
He commented: “Meeting here today is sending the perfect signal to the world out there.”
Established in 2009 with investment from Vichit Suraphongchai – one of the leading figures in Southeast Asian banking – and material support from Thailand’s premier science university, Mahidol University, X-ZELL Inc. started out as a classic university spin-off.
It is the brainchild of Dr Sebastian Chakrit Punyaratabandhu Bhakdi, a German-Thai physician who was working in Bangkok on a fellowship from the German Research Foundation (GFR) when he came across a new way of magnetically separating malaria cells from a blood sample. Upon conclusion of his research, Dr Bhakdi continued to refine the technology and successfully applied it to cancer cell detection, which eventually led to the creation of X-ZELL Inc. The young company’s international breakthrough then came at Y Combinator’s W15 Winter Batch in early 2016, where it showcased a new way of reliably detecting ultra-rare CEC at an early stage – allowing physicians to diagnose malign cancer when it is still treatable. X-ZELL Inc. completed the program with a rare Honourable Mention and seed investment by various Silicon Valley-based angel investors, among them US start-up guru, Paul Buchheit – the creator and lead developer of Gmail. After returning to Bangkok, Dr Bhakdi fast-tracked the company’s corporate evolution with the opening of X-ZELL Inc.’s first overseas office in Sunnyvale, California, and the recruitment of key investor and COO, Johannes Hille, in early 2017. Since then, the company has launched myriad research projects and successfully brought its first commercial cancer test, X-ZELL Prostate™, to market in the Kingdom of Thailand.