SINGAPORE - A Singapore biomedical start-up, EndoMaster, has developed an endoscopic robot whose flexible arms can remove stomach and colorectal tumours without surgical cuts.
The device is said to be one of the first of its kind in the world.
Clinical trials conducted in India and Hong Kong have demonstrated that the instrument works. The process of commercialising it has started, the company said. The first finished product is set to be on the market in 2016 and will cost less than $1 million.
The idea came to two Singapore academics, Associate Professor Louis Phee and Professor Lawrence Ho, in 2004 over a meal of chilli crab. They were inspired by the crab's pincers.
Since the device is at the cutting edge of its field, EndoMaster has the potential to be a $100 million company or bigger, said Professor Low Teck Seng, chief executive officer of the National Research Foundation in a recent interview.
Venture capital firms seem to think so too, because they were lining up to fund EndoMaster to ready a system for production. The firm was swamped with offers from venture capitalists, said co-founder Prof Phee.
In the end, Japanese optical component giant Hoya Group was chosen as it could help with developing a production system.
So far, the company has received under $1 million from government agencies such as Spring Singapore for initial research.
Singapore boasts a handful of high-tech start-ups like EndoMaster, with the potential to become hundred-million-dollar firms driven by dazzling innovation efforts.
They include online luxe fashion store Reebonz and enterprise software company Deskera, which have been valued at $250 million and US$100 million (S$126 million) respectively.