Eyes on the Future: Seizing Growth Opportunities in the Field of Precision Medicine
Eyes on the Future: Seizing Growth Opportunities in the Field of Precision Medicine
Delve into the world of precision medicine, where Hummingbird Bioscience harnesses the nimble agility of its namesake to target drugs for hard-to-treat diseases.
When we think about the human body, our minds conjure images of organs, tissues, and cells. Inside the microscopic world of our cells lies the genes and proteins that code us into being. Just as harmful codes can impact a computer, certain proteins can be detrimental to our bodies.
Hummingbird Bioscience's Precision Paradigm
This is where Hummingbird Bioscience comes into the picture. Founded by the visionary minds of Chief Executive Officer, Piers Ingram, Ph.D., and Chief Scientific Officer, Jerome Boyd-Kirkup, Ph.D, the company is named for the hummingbird’s nimble agility and adaptability. Just as the hummingbird masters precise movements in confined spaces, so does this company target drugs to specific parts of the body with remarkable precision, amidst the complexities and unknowns of biotechnology.
Their mission is to develop vital medicines for hard-to-treat conditions such as cancer and autoimmune disease. Hummingbird Bioscience was first spurred by a captivating enigma – the HER3 protein. Associated with approximately half of cancer cases, such as breast, lung and colorectal cancers, it is responsible for tumour growth and drug resistance in treatments. Overall, the outlook for patients with these conditions tends to be dismal.
In the immune system, proteins called antibodies provide a natural defence against unwanted material. They attach and bind themselves to the surfaces of harmful proteins, inhibiting and eliminating them from the body. Likewise, antibody-based therapeutics use lab-developed antibodies to treat cancers and autoimmune diseases.
HER3, however, constitutes a much tougher adversary. Hummingbird Bioscience found that existing antibodies that had been developed to fight HER3 were not sufficiently effective. Often, these antibodies would miss the most optimal regions of HER3 when binding it, failing to truly neutralise it.
Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, they hypothesised that there may be nothing wrong with HER3 – rather, the antibodies designed to inhibit it were lacking potency.
This gap gave rise to their early goal – to find an antibody that could fully inhibit the HER3 protein, blocking it from activating.
This goal led to the birth of Hummingbird Bioscience’s proprietary Rational Antibody Discovery (RAD) platform. The RAD platform systematically identified the most optimal regions of the HER3 protein, called epitopes, that antibodies need to bind onto so as to inhibit it.
As the saying goes, know the enemy. The RAD platform was critical to identifying HER3’s weaknesses, so that they could engineer a strong antibody against it. After years of research, the first antibody to inhibit HER3, named HMBD-001, emerged. This discovery also marked the RAD platform’s momentous first success.
Since then, Hummingbird Bioscience has been coding the cures for diseases, one protein at a time, accelerating drug discovery and development, and bringing the medical community closer to personalised medicines.
Precision Medicine: The Antidote to One-Size-Fits-All
In biotechnology, Hummingbird Bioscience distinguishes itself through precision medicines to discover and develop antibody therapeutics. Precision medicine is a broad term covering medical decisions, approaches and therapeutics that are applied to specific groups of patients.
As Dr Boyd-Kirkup says, “Effective drugs sometimes fail because they are not given to the right people.” They acknowledge that patients are highly diverse and should not be cast into the same mould. The match between patient and medicine is just as important as the medicine itself.
Their highly tailored approach is an antidote to other more ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches, which do not always address patients’ specific needs. Instead, Hummingbird Bioscience uses biomarkers such as genes to classify patients and identify those most likely to benefit from their treatments. This ensures that each therapy finds its destined recipient, delivering hope with precision.
The team invests significant resources in understanding the underlying mechanisms of diseases. Through their in-house RAD platform, they are engineering antibodies highly specific to disease-associated molecules.
It is clear that Hummingbird Bioscience's journey has been an impactful one from the start. Since their inception, they have developed a steady pipeline of drugs for clinical trials. Their impact extends beyond Singapore.
Recently, they have extended their geographical impact by initiating Phase Ib clinical trials for the HMBD-001 antibody in Australia. In these studies, the drug will be tested on patients to understand its safety, how the body processes it, and its effects on the body. This is a crucial step to getting more detailed information about the drug’s performance in the long process towards commercialisation.
Hummingbird Bioscience has also partnered with Australian cancer research institute, Omico, to accelerate clinical development of HMBD-001. Through their partnership, Hummingbird Bioscience can tap on Omico’s landmark programme, PrOSPeCT, enabling them to recruit patients most likely to respond to targeted therapies. PrOSPeCT provides access to world-class genomic profiling for advanced or incurable cancer patients. This venture extends the reach of Hummingbird Bioscience’s flagship therapy, potentially turning the tide on cancer beyond local shores.
A Flourishing Trajectory
In under seven years, Hummingbird Bioscience has charted a journey of extraordinary achievements. They have brought two antibody therapeutics to clinical trials, giving hope that previously hard-to-treat diseases can be cured in the future. The team is also working on antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Known as magic bullets due to their ability to provide targeted treatment to cancer cells without affecting healthy tissue, ADCs are one of the latest exciting antibody treatments. Hummingbird Bioscience is progressing their first ADC, called HMBD-501, to clinical trials. They credit their team and the support of their investors and partners in making these feats possible.
Citing Singapore’s position as a key financial hub in Asia, they also attribute their success to the thriving business environment here. There is strong support for the biotech sector, such as from Enterprise Singapore, a government agency that supports the growth of local companies and start-ups. On top of that, Singapore offers a gateway to funding from global life science investors, an important resource for a biotech company that requires huge capital to conduct their research.
For Hummingbird Bioscience, locating in Singapore Science Park 2 enables them to further reap the benefits of the local business environment.
“We chose to base ourselves in the Singapore Science Park due to the proximity of research and collaboration partners. Additionally, the open floor plan of areas available for leasing in Science Park allowed for flexibility to plan our lab and office spaces and maximize space efficiency.” Dr Ingram remarks.
From their premises in the Galen and Aries buildings, they are making their mark on the blooming biotech sector. Being in the thriving hub for science and technology businesses at Singapore Science Park has placed them at the heart of industry discourse with nearby research institutes.
For example, Hummingbird Bioscience was part of the NUS Faculty of Science’s 2022 Industrial Seminar Series, speaking on the biotechnology and precision medicine landscape in Singapore. Such cross collaborations contribute to the vibrancy of the local biotech sector where ideas and knowledge can easily be shared.
With Singapore Science Park’s suite of community building platforms, the opportunities to cross-network and collaborate are set to spur the R&D and innovation landscape.
Hummingbird Bioscience is primed to shape the future of precision medicine, along with countless lives. With their trajectory so far, they are poised to lead in biotech advancements and bolster Singapore’s global biotech presence.
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