When the European Union first started to impose strict bans on animal testing, Daniel Tan saw a gap in the market and seized it. “Alternative solutions weren’t readily available then, and my business partners and I had this idea of commercialising artificial skin models for testing purposes,” Tan says. He elaborates that his co-founders, Tan Ming Jie and Kelvin Chong had in fact already developed such models (created using actual human skin cells) as part of their PhD and masters’ research. “So it was with a bit of luck as well,” he adds.

The trio eventually started Denova Sciences in 2012 and quickly caught the attention of fast-moving consumer goods and cosmetic giants, several of which they now count as clients. Next on the cards is expansion into China and Taiwan, the latter is where Tan lived for 17 years. The company is also looking into creating new skin model types, such as one with hair. 

For his efforts, Tan made the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list under the Healthcare & Science umbrella this year. “Actually, I thought it was a scam when they first contacted me,” he admits with a laugh. “But it’s a good reassurance and confirmation that we are on the right track.”