Sanwa BioTech

With close to 8 billion inhabitants on our planet, cities are getting increasingly crowded and having more interactions. When there is an outbreak of zoonoses, developing cures is a key priority for governments and healthcare organisations and so too is rapid and efficient diagnostics technology to contain the spread of diseases.

Highly effective micro-fluidic diagnostic solution

HKSTP partner company Sanwa BioTech has dedicated six years to research and develop a point-of-care test as a rapid, portable, accurate and effective diagnostic solution for disease monitoring and control. The diagnostic platform named ALiA, which stands for Array Based LED induced fluorescence ImmunoAssay, can diagnose specific diseases with a single drop of sample on a chip of less than a few square centimetres in just 15 minutes. The quick turnaround time makes it possible for doctors and disease control bodies to make speedy clinical diagnoses and simplify decision making process.

Plugging the market gap for rapid diagnostics solutions

William Yim, Executive Chairman and CTO of Sanwa BioTech, says that existing point-of-care tests usually use low-cost test strips but the results are not very reliable. Retesting may be needed even after clinical diagnosis have been made by doctors, in order to re-confirm the result. On the other hand, conventional laboratory test is reliable but much more expensive and will take days to get detailed results, therefore the real time situation of patients may not be reflected.

For diseases that might spread quickly, such as influenza, dengue fever, measles, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, as well as the sporadic outbreaks of recently emerged Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), backward diagnostics will be detrimental to the critical task of containing the spread of the diseases.

In order to meet the requirements of point-of-care test, Sanwa BioTech has been co-operating with a number of local and overseas research institutes for years. They strive to develop a custom-made rapid diagnostic platform for customers in different regions with the existing core technologies.

The ALiA Lab-On-Chip platform consists of two core technologies. The micro-fluidic chip allows specimen and reagents to perform precisely according to standard laboratory process steps and combine with a protein array. The protein array is able to identify the presence of multiple infectious diseases in one sample. Through the two technologies, ALiA is able to use trace samples for multiple targets and get more specific results in a short period of time. The results are comparable to those of bigger devices.

Hong Kong has a real and immediate need for this technology

William says that in-vitro micro-fluidic platform is an emerging medical solution. Before ALiA, Hong Kong did not have similar locally developed products. He thinks that’s due to the high threshold for entering the field, as the research and development cycle will typically take seven to 10 years, and there are a range of regulatory control measures for medical devices to navigate. Hence it is difficult to start a similar company like Sanwa BioTech in Hong Kong. However, he believes that innovation of medical devices is necessary going forward, especially in Hong Kong which is vulnerable to infectious diseases. He says he is motivated as much by the need to address society’s needs as much as tapping into the business potential. He hopes that ALiA can lead to progress in point-of-care tests and become a quick, accurate and reasonably priced solution for the medical industry.

Relentless R&D and marketing activities

After years of R&D and testing, ALiA is ready to hit the market. There are now three projects launched on veterinary diseases, and clinical products will be available in Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific regions next year. In addition, more test solutions are being developed.

Long established at Science Park, Sanwa BioTech has been a veteran partner company of HKSTP. William thinks the company has benefited the most from HKSTP’s marketing and promotions support, through media exposure, international events and networking with industry counterparts. HKSTP’s help in linking up with non-government elderly care facilities has given ALiA more testing channels to collect non-private information that contributed to the R&D work. It has also tapped into HKSTP’s investors network, which paves the way for raising funds in the future.

Sanwa BioTech will continue perfecting the ALiA point-of-care test solution, offering more applications for a larger number of disease types and medical scenarios. The company will make Asia the priority region for the time being, and prepare for breaking into the EU market. It has already set up a laboratory in France to spearhead clinical trials and foster international collaboration. William believes that the Hong Kong-developed test solution will shine on the international stage.

Sanwa BioTech has won a host of innovation awards since its inauguration. Pictured here was William Yim (middle) receiving the Technological Achievement Award of the Hong Kong Awards for Industries.

Sanwa BioTech has won a host of innovation awards since its inauguration. Pictured here was William Yim (middle) receiving the Technological Achievement Award of the Hong Kong Awards for Industries.

ALiA is noted for portability, test speed, accuracy and reasonable pricing. It is expected to bring immense benefits in medical diagnostics and promote healthcare.

ALiA is noted for portability, test speed, accuracy and reasonable pricing. It is expected to bring immense benefits in medical diagnostics and promote healthcare.

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