MAOI ARROYO: Philippine Biotech Leader and Entrepreneur

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Multi-awarded scientist-entrepreneur and Asian Institute of Management professor Ma. Antonia Odelia “Maoi” G. Arroyo is the CEO of Hybridigm Consulting, considered the first biotechnology consulting firm in the Philippines.

Hybridigm Consulting is a firm that helps biotech innovators commercialize their technologies. Maoi, as she is known to family and friends, established Hybridigm to train up and coming biotech entrepreneurs, to help them attract key investors and to successfully commercialize their business ventures.

Hybridigm works with the government in developing R&D policies and legislation in order to promote the growth of the biotechnology industry. Maoi explains, “Some people dream of building a company, I dream of building an industry – one start-up at a time. Pioneering a biotech industry in an emerging market such as the Philippines is a long and arduous road.”

Her company enables clients to commercialize technology, partnering with them on the journey from science to enterprise. The firm’s current client roster includes private equity investors in the UK, startup biotech companies in Shanghai and Taiwan, as well as a long list of existing local biotech entrepreneurs.

She is a firm advocate of Filipino ingenuity and the unique natural advantage of the Philippines in terms of biodiversity. She knows that the problem lies in the lack of development for these resources thus making this her life work.

When asked if science and technology play enough of a role in development, and on how scientists can make their work more relevant to the country’s development needs, Maoi says, “I think scientists and engineers play a key role in development. However, to fully realize the potential of their technologies, they have to partner with the strategic mindset and rigorous implementation of business. Partnering with an existing firm or starting a social enterprise is the best way to get their life’s work out there quickly and effectively so they can make a significant difference.”

“Hybridigm consulting is committed to making sure that biotechnology like Raul Destura’s Dengue Diagnostic kit is given to an investor in the private sector, developed and sold to consumers. We want to help scientists and businessmen profit together. We want to harness Philippine biodiversity and Filipino ingenuity to serve the world, “ she adds.

Maoi advises local scientists and science entrepreneurs who want to fully realize the potential of their work for global development: partner with private firms or start a social enterprise.

As she is both a social and technological entrepreneur, Maoi’s advocacy is to help Filipino researchers make a significant difference in the fight against poverty and disease.

In convincing investors that funding biotechnology entrepreneurs is a worthwhile investment, she says, “Biotechnology revolves around using the characteristics of living things to make products or processes better, faster, or cheaper. It gives us new diagnostics for infectious diseases; bio-fertilizer that provides better yield and better drought resistance; biofuels and new industrial processes for manufacturing.”

Maoi, as a scientist, believes biotechnology is a viable industry in the Philippines. “The Philippines is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. For instance, there are about 500 known species of coral on Earth — 488 can be found only in the Philippines. All this diversity means we have a lot of solutions to local problems such as schistosomiasis and global problems like cancer. Even if we’re not an economic powerhouse, we owe it first to our citizens to commercialize innovations that treat their diseases. Moreover, we owe it to the world to make the best use of this biodiversity,” she shares.

She advises researchers who want to get into the biotech industry to be problem-collectors and solution-curators. She says, “They have to look at where the real pain points are in the field. Innovations like a refrigerated backpack to deliver vaccines to far-flung areas, an accurate biosensor to detect harmful chemicals in vegetables or fish might not be as fascinating as the high-level academic research that they’re used to, but it will become an important weapon in our fight against poverty and disease.”