A sneak peek into MiRXES and miRNA 

Written by Jasmine Chau

In 2014, MiRXES was founded as a 3-person spin-off from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR). Five years later, their flagship product GASTROClear was approved for early detection of gastric cancer (screening) – now widely used in public hospitals across Singapore.  

Technology developed at MiRXES is based on microRNA (miRNA), with the purpose of widening the range of tests for different types of cancers to determine the risk. This can be further broadened to be used in the diagnosis and management of other conditions, such as cardiovascular, metabolic and infectious diseases. 

What is microRNA (miRNA)? 

– Short, non-coding regulatory RNA segments, 18–25 nucleotides long 

– Smallest inheritable genetic segment (amongst ~2000) – very hard to detect 

– They bind to mRNA to suppress gene expression by decreasing protein output from the target gene(s) 

How is the market for miRNA technology? 

MiRNA research started 22 years ago, predominantly acting as biomarkers in the detection of disease. Currently, there is great interest in understanding the action of miRNA and its potential applications in the management of patients. However, the incorporation of this technology into clinical practice is still ongoing – most trials are being done in diagnosis, whereas there are fewer on miRNA-based therapeutics. 

GASTROClear 

Gastric cancer is the 5th most prevalent cancer worldwide with a higher number of cases being reported in Asia. Although early diagnosis is key to decreasing mortality, gastric cancer is likely to be diagnosed at a late stage owing to its asymptomatic nature during early stages. 

South Korea for example, has the 3rd highest prevalence of gastric cancer, but mortality is not even in the top ten countries worldwide – this is because of their screening programme which allows citizens to be tested every 2 years. Early detection not only benefits patient outcomes, it is also a long-term solution to resolving resource issues in our public health systems. 

GASTROClear is not a replacement for endoscopy which remains the gold standard for diagnosis of GI cancers. However, endoscopy is conducted only every 5-10 years. GASTROClear is used as a non-invasive test (5ml blood test) in this time interval to assess the risk of cancer, enabling early diagnosis. This screening process is rated more comfortable, convenient and safe for patients as opposed to endoscopy which typically requires a preparation process (including fasting) and anaesthesia during the procedure (which also carries risks). 

Interested so far? Come along on the 9th of November, to hear from Dr. Yew Chung Tang and Dr. Lihan Zhou from MiRXES! They will be sharing their knowledge of this technology and their journeys as successful leaders in the MedTech field. The best part? You can ask questions and interact with them, seeking their advice as budding scientists and engineers! 

Speaker Reveal! 

Zhou Lihan 

Ph.D. 

– Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer at MiRXES 

– Lead researcher at Bioprocessing Technology Institute, A*STAR 

– “Innovator Under 35” (MIT Technology Review, 2015) 

– Ph.D. in Biochemistry (Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore) 

– Authored and co-authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications and several patent applications 

Tang Yew Chung 

Ph.D. 

– VP, Medical Affairs, Head of Early Detection at MiRXES 

– Researcher at Duke-NUS Medical School (published 8 papers in multi-disciplinary cancer research, including cancer genomics and systems biology) 

– Editor at Asian Scientist Magazine 

– PhD and MSc in Molecular Engineering of Biological and Chemical Systems (Singapore-MIT Alliance) 

– BEng in Chemical Engineering (Specializing in Biopharmaceutical Engineering) (National University of Singapore) 

Sources: 

https://wires.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wrna.1662

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7091389/

Radio podcast: 

https://mobileapi.metroradio.com.hk/MetroMobile/mf/program_web_detail.aspx?catid=26cea2f9-06b8-44f9-ae66-429618f3c6ea&program=dc92fc3e-4986-4388-81f8-f0cca1cd97a3&content=81b0519f-20af-4acc-9ad5-8ae4eeaceccd&fbclid=IwAR1xIe8ERwCKquSVEg9Gm0BbY0_ob5ysEZGXih4dJnhXdhuWx6kOegSAS9I&utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=radio

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