MUST Connect 2023 Singapore highlighted the cutting-edge innovations of Korean life science startups

MUST Connect 2023 Singapore, a roadshow that helps Korean life science startups expand overseas by connecting them with global pharmaceutical companies and investors, was held on Oct. 11 (Wed.) and 12 (Thu.) at Singapore Science Park.

Twelve Korean startups showcased their innovative products and solutions at the event. Among them were Neurophet, which uses AI to analyze brain structures that vary from person to person; ImmunAbs, an autoimmune treatment that is set to enter Phase II clinical trials in the U.S. next year; and ABLELabs, a manufacturer of bio-lab liquid handling robots that won second place in the Innovator’s Pitch Challenge at RESI Boston September. Seoul Biohub, a South Korean government-backed organization, provided support to some of the participating companies.

Several pharmaceutical companies including J&J and Sanofi CHC were present to explore investment and collaboration opportunities, as well as SG Innovate, the Singapore venture capital and entrepreneurship support organization, EDB Investments, the country’s economic development agency, and Jungle Ventures, a leading venture capital firm in Southeast Asia, and Philips Ventures, which has a strong focus on life sciences.

The event kicked off with presentations on cutting-edge industry trends and open innovation initiatives by leading companies and hospitals, followed by investor pitches from 12 Korean startups. It also provided opportunities for startups to network with investors and potential collaborators. Personalized one-on-one meetings were held to facilitate discussions about investment and partnership opportunities.

J&J, through its global startup support program JLabs, has recently shown a strong interest in Korean life sciences startups. “Innovation has no borders,” said Sharon Chan, head of innovation at JLabs Asia Pacific, noting that more than 40% of the 81 startup companies incubated by JLabs at Shanghai are international, including 12 from Korea. J&J also hosted a separate session at the roadshow for 12 participating companies.

“Korean life science startups have a significant advantage due to Korea’s advanced manufacturing capabilities. We hope Korean companies will embrace Singapore, a global hub for innovation and transition, as a launchpad for their global expansion,” said Jasmine Qiu, Assistant Director of Health & Biomedical Science at SG Innovate.

‘Must Connect’ is a roadshow organized by Must Accelerator to introduce Korean life science startups to major companies, hospitals, and investors in Singapore, where the Asia-Pacific offices of global pharmaceutical companies are concentrated.

It was held for the second time this year after last year. The Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ), which has been supporting Korean life science startups, participated as a sponsoring organization.

“Korean life science startups are gaining increasing attention with each passing year,” observed Julia Lee, CEO of MUST Accelerator. “Given the enthusiastic response from attending companies and investors, we can expect to see concrete results emerge soon.”

Many leading pharmaceutical companies have their APAC headquarters in Singapore and are actively seeking out promising life science startups in Asia. As a result, Korean startups are using the city-state as a bridgehead for international expansion. In 2010, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, TEMASEK, made a groundbreaking investment in Korean drugmaker Celltrion.

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