First-in-Class Treatment for Zika – From Concept to First Clinical Trials in Nine Months

Watch the Temasek video: ‘The Race Against Time (and Zika)’.

A Zika virus outbreak hit numerous countries in 2016. Singapore reported her first case in August 2016, and about 450 people were infected by the end of the year. While the Aedes mosquito-borne virus usually causes mild symptoms to those who contract it, it has been linked to cause microcephaly, a condition of abnormally small heads in babies born to pregnant women with Zika infections.

Tychan, a Singapore biotechnology company, has developed a new antibody called Tyzivumab specifically targeted to fight Zika infections, with support from Temasek Foundation Ecosperity. Tychan was given the green light on 8 February by Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to conduct clinical trials – after just nine months of development! About 24 healthy volunteers will take part in the first phase of the clinical trial, with likely two more phases to follow. The trial is expected to complete in September this year before the antibody can obtain regulatory approval from HSA to treat Singapore patients.

The record nine months of quick development is a result of Tychan’s biologics capability and technology platform. The integration of innovative drug development and bio-manufacturing processes through its collaboration with WuXi Biologics, a biotech company based in China, will also enable Tychan to find cures for other infectious diseases of global importance – and help save lives during future outbreaks.

Biologics are drugs derived from living sources, including humans, animals, or plant cells, and produced using recombinant DNA technology. From these sources come products such as vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. The usual process from drug discovery using DNA to clinical trials takes 18-24 months.

“The current paradigm of taking years to bring a drug from discovery to the clinic does not allow us to effectively deal with outbreaks of emerging diseases,” said Mr Teo Ming Kian, Chairman of Temasek Foundation Ecosperity. “The SARS episode is a painful reminder. To make a difference to outbreak interventions, research discovery must be translated into medicines within such timelines. The development of Tyzivumab is a first step in this direction”, he added.

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for the Zika virus apart from treatment aimed at relieving its symptoms. Associate Professor Teoh Yee Leong, a public health physician and Chief Executive of Singapore Clinical Research Institute, said that if Tyzivumab were successful, it would definitely be impactful to the medical community as this would be the first time a treatment for Zika is available.

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About Temasek Foundation Ecosperity

Temasek Foundation Ecosperity is one of the six non-profit philanthropic organisations set up by Temasek and sponsored through Temasek Trust.

Temasek Foundation Ecosperity funds and supports strategic and impact-driven programmes that focus on championing the sustainability of our global ecosystem and the development of innovative solutions to improve liveability. It aims to bring about enduring solutions, systems and capabilities against environmental, biological and other adversities affecting the population, in order to enhance sustained liveability in Singapore and beyond.

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The Liveability Challenge – a new global call for innovative solutions to challenges facing cities in the 21st century. Launched by Temasek Foundation Ecosperity on 5 April 2018 and closing on 25 May 2018, the first-ever Challenge is accepting submissions on viable proposals on addressing urban waste and cooling.

Mr Lim Hock Chuan, Chief Executive of Temasek Foundation Ecosperity said, “The Liveability Challenge is an opportunity for us to bring together the entire ecosystem of innovators, funders, investors, platform providers and professionals and excite them to find impactful solutions to make Singapore and the region a more liveable place. We hope to give the talents and the innovators a helping hand and help them advance their solutions towards eventual successful commercialisation.”

The Liveability Challenge is supported by a host of partners from the liveability and sustainability ecosystem, including SGInnovate, Danfoss, FundedHere, and the National University of Singapore, and is organised by Eco-Business.

More information on The Liveability Challenge, including submission details, is available on