By JURO OSAWA
HONG KONG—Technology for detecting cancer cells in blood, developed in Singapore, took the top prize in The Wall Street Journal's Asian Innovation Awards, which were announced Tuesday.
The second prize went to light, flexible padding for body armor, also from Singapore, while an outsourcing company bringing jobs to rural India came in third.
The three winnersreflect some of the broader issues that the Asia-Pacific region's entrepreneurs are trying to tackle, such as health-care-related challenges and ways to improve the living conditions of the underprivileged in emerging economies.
This year, the Journal received more than 240 applications. A team of Journal editors narrowed the pool to 52, before an independent panel of judges from the private sector and academia worked with the editors to select 12 finalists. From among the 12 finalists, the judges chose the Gold, Silver and Bronze Prize winners, as well as the Technopreneur of the Year award for an entry that best applies technology with the greatest potential for commercial success.
One of the prominent themes among this year's applicants was how to find solutions to health-care-related problems, often linked to social issues such as population aging, economic disparity and poverty.
While some applicants deal with health-care issues that are closely tied to socioeconomic conditions specific to their countries, Singapore-based Clearbridge BioMedics Pte., whose entry won the Gold Prize as well as the Technopreneur of the Year award, is contributing to world-wide efforts to detect and fight cancer.
Clearbridge said it is developing a way to isolate circulating tumor cells—stodgy cancer cells that spill out of the malignant tumor and flow into the bloodstream—using a biochip that it says will physically trap such cells with its microscopic structure. Those cancer cells in the bloodstream could provide clues about the spread of the disease and possibly help in early detection, scientists say.
Clearbridge—spun off from the National University of Singapore, which provided funding for the venture—hasn't yet run clinical trials for the ClearCell biochip, but plans to do so in coming years.
The Silver Prize went to Sofshell Pte. Ltd., another Singapore-based startup, which has developed body-armor padding using lightweight material that is soft under normal conditions but hardens upon impact. The company, spun off from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering at Singaporean government research agency A*STAR, says the material enables the wearer to maneuver more easily, without sacrificing the level of protection. Possible applications include sportswear as well as police and military body-armor products. Other than protecting the human body, the material could also be used for protective cases for electronics devices and other fragile items, the company says.
Another common theme among this year's applicants was how businesses could help create opportunities for underprivileged communities.
RuralShores Business Services Pvt., the winner of the Bronze Prize, runs outsourcing services such as data entry, bookkeeping and expenses at offices in small towns and villages in India, providing rural youth with job opportunities. While most outsourcing firms in India operate in urban centers, some, like RuralShores, are trying to take advantage of untapped talent in rural areas, allowing local youth to find jobs without relocating to cities. Still, such operations often face difficulties due to underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly Internet connectivity and power supply.
Entries for the awards came from all around Asia. Of the 12 finalists announced in August, three were from Singapore, while another three came from India and another three from Hong Kong. The other three finalists were from the Philippines, Pakistan and Australia.
The judges were selected by journalists at The Wall Street Journal, and coverage of the event and its winners is the sole responsibility of the Journal's news department.
- Posted using from my iPad HD