Updated on 25 June 2013
Dr Alex Matter, CEO, Experimental Therapeutics Center, AStar, Singapore, and inventor of Glivec
Dr Alex Matter, CEO, Experimental Therapeutics Center, A*Star, Singapore, is among the pioneers of the world's first targeted cancer therapy, imatinib mesylate, also known as Glivec. His discovery turned chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) from a deadly disease into one that can be treated with an oral pill with nearly 90 percent long-term survival rate.
Dr Matter has played an important role in the success of several anticancer drugs, including Tasigna, and has been instrumental in building and leading teams that discovered novel anticancer drugs. Dr Matter was appointed director of Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD), Singapore, in 2003.
Before moving to Singapore, Dr Matter was global head of oncology research for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, head of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Basel, and global head of translational research. Dr Matter is also spearheading D3- Drug Discovery and Development, an initiative to boost drug discovery landscape in Singapore. D3- Drug Discovery and Development is jointly funded by A*Star and Singapore's National Medical Research Council (NMRC) and National Research Foundation, Singapore (NRF).
In an interview with BioSpectrum Asia, Dr Matter shares his perspective on the drug development potentials of Singapore, challenges prevailing in the ecosystem and ways to boost the novel drug development.
Tell us something about the 'Glivec development days'. What change do you see in the attitude of today's scientists?
It took a long time to develop Glivec. It involved 18 years of R&D and not too many companies had the breadth and patience to do it. It was the first time that such a project was being undertaken and many people said that it would fail and will not be successful.