BioCheetah: Singapore Prestige Class Award 2021/2022
Dr. Lee Kian Chung, PhD, Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer of BioCheetah (Left), Ms. Eunice Teo, Director of Business Development & Operations (Right)
Transforming Cancer Care
BioCheetah Pte. Ltd., a local company founded by Professor Jean Paul Thiery from France and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lee Kian Chung has a unique story. During a holiday in Africa, Professor Thierry dreamt of a cheetah and that led to the name of the company. BioCheetah reputes itself with speed, precision, and health by creating future-focused strategies as part of the biomedical innovation that is occurring at an unparalleled rate. In August 2018, BioCheetah received an exclusive license of the urine-based biomarkers for early cancer screening from The Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR) and has since established a presence base in Singapore.
Despite the many advances made in oncology, urological cancer is amongst the top 10 most commonly diagnosed worldwide. Effectively addressing the challenge of cancer is a race against time. To overcome one of healthcare’s greatest challenges, BioCheetah found an opportunity to change “the paradigm towards the use of novel biomarkers present in the urine for diagnosis and follow-up of patients through cost-effective, non-invasive procedures to surpass the current limitations of initial detection and continous surveillance of bladder cancer. The need for early detection is one of the most important determinants of the fate of bladder cancer.
At the heart and mission of this company aims to offer an alternative approach to invasive procedures to deliver pain-free biopsies and better patient triage assessment. BioCheetah prides itself as a “thought leader in urinalysis and is striving to expand its service in this field” and has also achieved Singapore Prestige Brand Award 2020/2021.
Another instrumental figure for BioCheetah’s success is Eunice Teo, Director of Business Development & Operations. With over 10 years as a healthcare technopreneur in the field, Eunice helmed her role at BioCheetah starting as a technology transfer manager and progressed to a medical device specialist before advancing to her current role. As the winner of Aspiring Women Entrepreneurship Award, she has risen to the challenge with her wealth of knowledge and determination and succeeded in this tough landscape.
Pioneers of New Technology
While the war on cancer began in the early 70s, there is are far and few screening methods available for most life-threatening cancers including bladder cancer, the 10th most common cancer in the world. There is a tremendous human and economic toll on the disease and BioCheetah’s novel biomarker panel offers quick and sensitive aid for the detection of bladder cancer with a few drops of urine. As an incumbent company, BioCheetah’s initial obstacles were to create a symbiotic working relationship with the hospitals to obtain necessary clinical samples. Another obstacle for most diagnostics company is the long and arduous clinical trial processes that require huge monetary investments. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, BioCheetah has continued to look forward with a number of strategic pivots starting with their application for ISO 13485 certification, hiring trainees from the #SGUnited Trainee Programs to “groom new generations of graduates”.
Another shining star from BioCheetah is Eunice Teo. As she started out in her career in 2010 as a graduate of the National University of Singapore (NUS), she had a hard time landing a job during the 2019 recession. She took up a teaching assistant role in a university for a course in entrepreneurship led by her ex-mentor. It was at that point that her mentor noticed Eunice’s passion and challenged her to complete a technology transfer traineeship programme. “I never regretted setting out on this path, doors opened and I was given plenty of opportunities to grow myself as an individual in this profession”.
This opportunity from her ex-mentor to enter such an unheard of programme at a time of self-doubt commenced her journey into the industry. “I took up this opportunity feeling lost and blinded because I was not certain of my direction then. But it eventually became a calling and I decided to give this a shot.” It was through this opportunity that Eunice found the solution to combining Science and Business – “the journey has unfolded well for me I didn’t want to be lab-based and seeing myself bounded by routine lab work. Being an extrovert, I love meeting new people and exchange thoughts and conversations.”
Finding her Way
In her next few steps, Eunice utilised the knowledge and skills she had garnered from market trends in technology for medical devices and moved to her next stint with a UK-based Biotech company, QuantuMDx. During this next leg of her career, Eunice had the opportunity to “experience and oversee the exciting transformation process”, which led her to BioCheetah. This new endeavor once again cemented Eunice’s passions for Science and Business. Upon meeting Dr. Lee, the Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer of BioCheetah, Eunice was able to cultivate her passion into her personal goal “to be able to identify, analyse and exploit market opportunities in different corporate development stages in the healthcare and diagnostics sector, and commercialising medical tech products to benefit people.”
Nonetheless, as with all young entrepreneurs starting out in their industry, Eunice had to combat negative self-talk and comments. “To combat these negative comments that have built up in my head and are stopping me from reaching my full potential, I have mentors and peers that never fail to inspire me, hit me with reality checks on my capabilities and successes, and help me grow and learn from their outside perspectives.” She always reminded herself to persist and work harder in the Biotechnology industry.
This goal accompanied by Eunice’s wealth of knowledge with investor relations has made her an invaluable asset to BioCheetah. “Her stint Investor Relations has helped her effectively translate the technicalities of BioCheetah’s business model to an easy-to-understand manner, as a means to garner investors’ interest,” said Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lee.
Obstacles and Challenges
Eunice has also made incredible strides as a woman in the Biotechnology industry. “Being a woman, one must contend with social stigma and the biotech industry is male-dominant.” The industry also faces its own set of challenges that Eunice has met head-on from “feeling the need to conform to societal expectation and a huge credibility challenge.” She also attests work-life balance is also a key proponent for women to maintain at home and in a demanding industry. “For a working woman, the question of work-life balance is always hanging in the air. This becomes more apparent for me as a woman entrepreneur as running a company puts out a lot more stress and demands on myself.”
As a young woman, she acknowledges that most people in these professionals are in their 50s or 60s, posing another challenge for her. Despite these hurdles, this winner for Aspiring Women Entrepreneurship Award has put in a tremendous amount of work to build herself as an authority in the Biotechnology industry. “I was more than willing to put in the work to create my own reputation for being a hardworking, honorable businessperson in my own right.” Entrepreneurial success is determined by one’s hard work, determination, and integrity – all attributes that excellently describe Eunice. Her words of advice for future women entrepreneurs are to find the right support network, women-focused networking events such as Women in Science including groups that were specifically created by women for women.
To become a young thriving female entrepreneur, one has to focus on bridging the gap from idea to action and to take in all opportunities offered to you. For Eunice, she was given the chance to “work alongside industry luminaries and benefit from their well-versed knowledge of how to build a world-class bio company with all its complex component parts: basic, translational, clinical research from scratch.”
Looking forward, BioCheetah hopes to do a “walkabout with the Members of Parliament in HDB programs and making our diagnostic products accessible to more people.” They hope that future initiatives might aid Singaporeans in the near future with healthcare assistance. Along with public assistance, they also hope to reduce the bottleneck at hospitals with and freeing up urologists and cystoscopy rooms for patients with critical needs. All to fill a gap and benefit the patients.