CEO and Co-founder, PathoVax LLC (USA) PathoVax Pte Ltd (Singapore)

BSc (Concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology) 2009

When National University of Singapore’s (NUS) alumnus Dr Poh Weijie first arrived at Johns Hopkins University for postgraduate studies in 2010 at the age of 27, he made a statement which stunned his American peers.

“I told everyone that I wanted to achieve two things,” the 34-year-old biologist recounted. “Firstly, I want to cure cancer and secondly, I want to start my own biotechnology company.”

His proclamation was met with skeptical laughter. Nobody took his desire to cure cancer seriously. Further, biotechnology start-ups were few and far between in Baltimore’s academia-focused research environment. Success stories are even rarer – Weijie estimates about one in a hundred companies survives the journey to reach profitability.

Seven years on, Weijie has co-founded PathoVax and his company is close to producing a new vaccine to end cervical cancer by stopping all cancer-causing variants of the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a virus responsible for killing close to 270,000 women worldwide every year.

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Dr Poh Weijie (right) and his cofounder of PathoVax, Dr Joshua Wang, in the lab