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GBA+ Technology Fund - Phase Scientific International Limited

Diagnosing a healthier future

Phase Scientific, a high-growth biotech company founded by bioengineers in 2015, established its global headquarters in Hong Kong in 2017 and has ambitious plans for developing the market for rapid diagnostics in China, by leveraging the comparative advantages of the cities comprising the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA).

Improving diagnostics for all

Phase Scientific began with a mission to make testing for infectious diseases simpler, less expensive and more accessible. The company is also developing products that will enhance diagnostics not only in lab settings, but also in less formal testing environments such as homes and community centres. Dr. Ricky Chiu, Founder and CEO of Phase Scientific, commenting on these goals, said, “We are trying to extend diagnostics beyond the lab, decentralising access to testing kits for use by anyone regardless of their training.”

Given its expertise in rapid diagnostics, the company’s capabilities were particularly relevant when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. Dr. Chiu and his team quickly adapted Phase Scientific’s proprietary sample preparation technology for use in COVID-19 testing, a necessity at the time given the impact of economic lockdowns and strains on the healthcare system. People needed a fast and efficient way to test for COVID-19 at home or in other informal settings.

These conditions changed the landscape of diagnostics dramatically. Dr. Chiu explained that, “The demand for rapid testing capabilities skyrocketed. Our COVID-19 diagnostics were designed to reduce the time and costs associated with testing and ensure widespread access when it was needed most.”

To the GBA and beyond

A key part of Dr. Chiu’s decision to base Phase Scientific’s global operations in Hong Kong is its involvement in the GBA, seen as an ideal environment for biotech startups given its strong intellectual property protections and cross-border marketing channels. Not only do 80% of companies in the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao believe the GBA will grow faster than the rest of China,1 the networking synergies across the GBA cities are conducive to biotech innovation.

For example, Phase Scientific can lean on Hong Kong’s well regarded healthcare system as well as its academic reputation in infectious diseases for research and product distribution. Then locate its production and testing facilities in the GBA cities across the border where there are cost advantages. Such optionality allows biotech startups to fulfil all their requirements in the most efficient way possible, which explains why 66% of healthcare companies in the GBA are planning to expand their operations in the region.2

It also reinforces why connectivity is a key feature of the GBA’s development and a priority for HSBC’s support of companies therein. Businesses like Phase Scientific need a reliable partner to ramp up operations in the region, access its unique range of resources and leverage its connections with markets abroad.

Funding for innovative technology

To continue building its presence in the GBA as well as expanding its reach into the rest of China, Phase Scientific required access to funding. Dr. Chiu engaged HSBC’s GBA+ Technology Fund for financing to ramp up production of its diagnostic kits and expand its lab capacity to accommodate the demand for testing.

Describing his experience with the fund, which uses progressive assessment criteria to support early-stage startups, Dr. Chiu said that, “Besides offering attractive rates compared to other financing sources, the GBA+ Technology Fund is unique in that it provides an efficient and customised solution that meets our specific needs. Paired with HSBC’s understanding of technology companies, the fund helped us significantly when we were getting started and enabled us to pursue our expansion plans in the GBA”

What comes next?

Dr. Chiu sees the GBA as an essential part of his expansion plans in China, which will focus on cancer diagnostics and setting up service labs across the country. With 80% of China’s liquid biopsy companies located in the GBA, Dr. Chiu believes the region is strategically important to his company and has developed a “GBA gameplan” to capture emerging opportunities. The GBA+ Technology Fund was designed to support companies looking to expand their footprint in the region.

Commenting on the purpose of the fund, Frank Fang, Head of Commercial Banking, Hong Kong, HSBC, said, “The GBA+ Technology Fund is designed to empower innovative early-stage companies in capturing business opportunities in the GBA. Through supporting promising startups like Phase Scientific, we are contributing to making this region a powerhouse of creativity and strengthening the role of innovative technology in economic development.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Chiu and his team are working hard to push what is possible in rapid diagnostics and he sees the GBA as a springboard into the rest of China as well as international markets. Asked whether the GBA has the potential to become the next global biotech hub, Dr. Chiu responded with a resounding: “Yes”.

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