Science to Biotech Business: A Societal Ecosystem

by Allen Yu

I met Dr Aldrin Yim at a bioinformatics research collaboration in 2008 – an encounter which eventually led to the founding of our company, Codex Genetics. Even then, Aldrin and I recognized the lack of efficient clinical action in the tackling of rare diseases. With instances of rare disease individually rare but collectively common– affecting 1 in 67 people in Hong Kong alone and approximately 5% of the global population– we believe every number contains a story translatable into clinical practice, and we aim to bring these benefits to those who need them. Our company is hence the culmination of our faith in the transformative capability of genetic research and bioinformatics.

Currently, individuals can spend up to 10 years seeking diagnosis and effective treatment for a rare disease, a scenario unacceptable in time-sensitive clinical situations where early diagnoses are imperative for better disease prognoses. Reflecting this understanding, our genetic testing and analytical services shorten this diagnostic period to a mere 6 weeks, whilst maintaining maximum accuracy in results. Furthermore, existing genetic testing methods cannot cover the full spectrum of neuro-degenerative diseases: with this in mind, together with a dedicated team, Codex Genetics and I aim to propagate research solutions, precision medicine, and efficient genetic testing to consumers and professionals alike.

We established Codex Genetics with the aim to aid both the medical research sector and wider community. To this end, three factors were crucial in the development of Codex Genetics: funding, business networking, and a minimum viable product. Building from the ground up, we sourced funding from the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Fund; with the support of the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU), we acquired the seed capital needed to securely initiate our research and marketing objectives. To further generate interest and awareness for our cause, we also successfully applied to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Incubation program. This 4-year program provided us with much-appreciated business and financial support, allowing us to establish our professional network. Beyond this, we collaborated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to develop a new genetic testing method and applied it to patients with proven effectiveness, leading to the formation of our minimum viable product.

We are grateful that our efforts have received recognition throughout our various milestones. Our company now qualifies as a designated local research institution (DLRI) for the enhanced tax deduction plan by the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission. We also collaborated with various hospitals and global pharmaceutical companies for the co-development for disease screening; in light of our effective conversion of research into feasible action plans – successfully improving care for patients of rare diseases – we attained the Hong Kong Spirit of Innovation Award (2019). Even more recently, our company passed the ISO 27001 Certification, a qualification earned by achieving international standard on information security.

With each breakthrough, we come closer to providing the support individuals need for their health and family planning, as well as paving a path for medical professionals and further clinical insights. Ultimately, business is just another medium to promote scientific solutions: with the continued good faith of our contributors and benefactors, both myself and Codex Genetics aim to revolutionize the medical landscape and make the benefits of personalized, efficient genetic testing and medicine available to everyone.

About the Author

Dr Allen Yu holds over 10 years of experience in the field of bioinformatics and BigData analysis, receiving his MSc in Computer Science at the University of Oxford and his PhD in Biochemistry at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Currently an academic researcher and lecturer in the Department of Health Technology and Informatics at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Allen was also an awardee of the Chevening Scholarship. Allen’s research primarily focuses on integrated bioinformatics solutions for different genomic diseases, mainly cancer and neuro diseases; his research career also led him to found Codex Genetics Ltd (Codex) as its Chief Technology Officer.

With Allen’s extensive research experience and support from the HKSAR Innovation and Technology Commission, Hong Kong Science Park, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Codex Genetics has curated and transformed recent advances in cancer and neuro-genomics research into clinically actionable insights, aiming to provide personalized medicine services in Asia using latest genomics and IoT technology.