2 November 2018: Feature in the Hong Kong Economic Journal 。 Labway於信報StartupBeat的報導

2 November 2018: Feature in the Hong Kong Economic Journal 。 Labway於信報StartupBeat的報導

本港可說是全球海參集散地,每年處理數量達數千噸,相比起澳洲、美國、中東等地,擁有得天獨厚的優勢。本港生物科技初創Labway近年研究提取海參精華,以分析其抗頑疾成分及藥用價值。《信報》StartupBeat請來其創辦人薛志威及科技總監陳嘉儀博士,分享他們的研發心得與營運策略。

主持:尹思哲 《信報》科技編輯

嘉賓:薛志威 Labway創辦人

           陳嘉儀博士 Labway科技總監

尹:作為生物科技初創,為何當初有志研究海參,並提取當中的精華?

薛:本港作為全球海參集散地,即使海外均出產海參,惟貨源往往先流入本港,每年處理量更達數千噸。相比之下,澳洲、美國、中東等地方海參量較少,種類亦不齊全,惟研究人員致力開發海參不同用途,本港就鮮有類似實驗,加上家族經營海味生意,我從小就認識海產,於是立志研究有關項目。

陳:海參營養豐富,蘊含皂苷精華、黏多醣、多肽膠原蛋白等成分,具藥用價值,有抗氧化及抗炎功用。本港又擁有地利優勢,我們可輕易在這地方取得數十款海參品種測試。未來期望提取海參精華,驗證其抗頑疾的抗氧化及抗炎反應,甚至製成護膚品、藥物等產品。

冀跟藥廠合作降成本

尹:你們怎樣展開海參精華的有關研究?

薛:團隊研究宗旨是透過海洋生物元素,以可持續方式帶給消費者健康。該公司旗下設有海洋分子研究(Marine Molecule Research,MMR)平台,專責從海洋生物提取生物活性分子(Bioactive)有效成分,再測試其功用及成效。

起初在機緣巧合下,結識科學園其他生物科技公司,與香港大學研究團隊更志趣相投。自2015年起,我們研究提取海參的皂苷精華,再進行抗頑疾測試,是為全港首項海參皂苷抗頑疾研究。未來我們期望能深化項目,預料明年把皂苷完全提取。

作為生物科技初創,因研發及製藥成本高昂,我們目標是跟藥廠展開合作。由於藥廠普遍不會包辦研發至製藥的工序,一般會在臨床實驗前物色有關生物科技公司,審視其研究成果,當中包括其分子發展及程式等。當藥廠遇到心儀項目便展開收購,把公司的研究成果帶至臨床實驗。經三階段臨床測試成功後,他們就陸續展開商品化過程。

陳:我們主要透過隔離、提取及純化海參內有用的生物分子,先於科學園進行簡單的抗氧化實驗,再把樣本帶至香港大學及其他夥伴大學的研究院,測試其抗頑疾功用。若測試成功,我們便可專注於特定分子的研究。最後,待確定有關研究藥物的效用及安全性,我們就可申請美國食品藥品監督管理局(FDA)認證。

兩持續發展方案助保育

尹:你們除了科研及產品外,亦有保育的考慮,可否講解一下構思?

陳:若發現海參的皂苷藥用價值極高,或引來大量捕取,問題是不能盡用海洋資源,以免影響生物多樣化。

我們考慮兩項可持續發展方案:第一,當我們研究得出特定的活性化合物,可採用人工合成方法研藥;第二,我們可進行室內人工繁殖,不但對海洋生物有益,而且可提取其有用物質,以便用於醫學上。

尹:那麼研發成功後,你們有何商品化策略?

薛:作為生物科技初創,海洋分子研究平台屬於高風險項目。然而,我們另設中度風險但高回報的平台Labway Brand,把不同的研究項目商品化。

我認為,研究與產品之間必須有市場調查的過程,先了解客戶需要,繼而度身訂造產品。

海參膠囊是公司第一項商品化的保健產品。不少人得悉海參對人體有益,惟浸泡時間需時,工序製作步驟繁複。

若食用海參有保健需要,須恒常食用才能見效,但並非人人能堅持天天下廚,膠囊設計能「對症下藥」。

藉博士庫計劃聘專才

尹:得知你投資七位數字創辦Labway,有否考慮政府資助或物色融資?

薛:作為生物科技初創,政府提供不少配套及資助。我們進駐科學園後,面對招募人才的困難,曾接獲不少應徵履歷,惟具相關知識的專才未必對海洋生物研究感興趣。適逢政府推出「博士專才庫」計劃,我們就成為全港首間申請成功的初創。藉上述計劃邀請陳博士加盟後,公司發展方向逐漸明確。

政府會向生物科技初創提供資助,資金足以維持我們的現金流,但上述資助須留待研究完成後才獲批,令我們前期支出較大。若開發新產品、機器,以至市場推廣等支出,未必有政府資助支持,因此融資為必經之路。

 

註:以上嘉賓訪問均屬個人意見,與本報立場無關。

(編者按:尹思哲最新著作《初創起義》現已發售)

閱讀全文 Full Article:

http://startupbeat.hkej.com/?p=65394 

 

Meet Labway, a startup specializing in sea cucumber nutrients

 

Labway’s co-founder Victor Sit (inset, left), and the company’s scientific director Dr Alice Chan (right).  The startup aims to develop the health nutrients from sea cucumber, and commercialize various research projects into products to the market. Photo:
Labway’s co-founder Victor Sit (inset, left), and the company’s scientific director Dr Alice Chan (right). The startup aims to develop the health nutrients from sea cucumber, and commercialize various research projects into products to the market. 

Hong Kong serves as an important gateway for distribution of seafood products into China and the surrounding region. In particular, the city is a major player in handling the distribution and other transactions related to sea cucumber.

Founded in 2016, Labway, a Hong Kong-based biotechnology startup, aims to explore and develop the health nutrients from sea cucumber, in order to analyze the anti-resistance ingredients and medicinal value.

Labway’s co-founder Victor Sit, and the company’s scientific director, Dr Alice Chan, recently sat down with the Hong Kong Economic Journal, to share their views on how the firm thrives with its research and development (R&D) capability.

Excerpts from an interview:

HKEJ: How do you go about your R&D work on exploring the nutrients from sea cucumber?

Sit: Our mission at Labway is to develop the healthy nutrients from sea cucumber in a sustainable manner and bring it to customers. The company’s Marine Molecule Research (MMR) platform is dedicated to extracting ingredients from bioactive molecules from marine organisms, and testing their utility and effectiveness in treating human disease and sickness we see today.

As a biotechnology startup, our target is to establish cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, in order the share the huge R&D and production cost. As we know, pharmaceutical companies generally do not handle the whole process from R&D to production, they will generally look for biotech companies with products before clinical trials.

For projects they are interested in, the pharmaceutical firms would attempt to acquire and bring the firms’ projects and technologies to clinical trials, followed by commercialization.

Chan: We mainly conduct simple anti-oxidation experiments in the Science Park by isolating, extracting and purifying useful biomolecules in sea cucumbers, and then we take the samples to the research institutes of the University of Hong Kong and other partner universities to test the anti-ageing function.

If the product passes the test, we would then focus on studies on specific biomolecules. Finally, after we confirm the efficacy and safety of the drug, we would apply for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certification.

HKEJ: In addition to scientific research and products, the company has also put an emphasis on conservation. Can you talk a little about that?

Chan: Medical research around the world shows overwhelming evidence that saponins extracted from sea cucumber combat certain diseases. We are still only scratching the surface of the numerous medical qualities hidden in these sea creatures. But we should proceed with care, as it may attract lot of hunting activities, posing a threat to biodiversity, which we want to avoid.

We currently consider two solutions on sustainable development: first, when we discover specific active compounds, we can use synthetic methods to develop drugs; second, we can carry out indoor artificial propagation, which is beneficial not only to marine organisms, but also facilitate the extraction.

HKEJ: For your company, what is the commercialization strategy for the products and drugs which have passed clinical tests?

Sit: For a biotech startup, marine molecular research makes for a kind of a high-risk project. But we have a moderately risky, yet high-reward, platform called “Labway Brand”, to commercialize various research projects.

Sea Cucumber Capsule is the company’s first commercialized healthcare product. Many people have learned that sea cucumber is good for the human body, but the cooking process is complicated and time-consuming. Consumers need to intake the nutrients from sea cucumbers regularly in order to get the nutrients effective, and capsules are a right fit for them.

HKEJ: We have learned that you have invested a few million dollars. Would you now consider applying for government funding or seek other financing?

Sit: As a biotech startup, the government provides a lot of support and funding. But we faced many difficulties in recruiting talents. We received many applications, but experts with relevant knowledge may not be interested in marine life research.

The government funding is sufficient for us to maintain cash flow. However, the subsidy will not be approved until the completion of the research. This adds more cash pressure for us at the initial stage of research.

In later stages, government funding support may not be available for the company’s spending on developing new products, and for procuring machines and equipment, as well as for marketing and other expenses. Hence, seeking other financing may be the only way.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 2

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

 

link: http://www.ejinsight.com/20181102-meet-labway-a-startup-specializing-in-sea-cucumber-nutrients/

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