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Scions of Style: The classic Daphne Teo, founder and CEO of NSG Biolabs

Meet the stylish biotech matadora who is pushing the biotechnology space in Singapore forward one Jimmy Choo-clad step at a time.

When an exact and complete human genome sequence was finished two years ahead of schedule in 2003, it represented one of humanity’s greatest achievements. It took a global team of scientists 13 years to complete the project, but the outcome had an almost immediate impact on multiple fields, especially in the life sciences sector.

Incidentally, three years prior, Singapore had announced its intention to become a life sciences hub, so the completion of the project was a massive boost for the country’s ambitions.

Daphne Teo was a year removed from entering Purdue University in the US to study industrial engineering when the genome was decoded. She would eventually dip her toes into life sciences when she co-founded venture capital firm Goodman Capital, which primarily made investments in early-stage technology and biotechnology start-ups, in 2013.

(Related: How Daphne Teo leverages her VC firm for good causes)

Now, Teo wears multiple hats. She is a partner at Nest.Bio Ventures, which funds and commercialises life sciences companies, a co-founder of Engine Biosciences, a technology company pioneering network biomedicine, and the CEO and founder of NSG Biolabs, Singapore’s largest co-working laboratory and office space.

The latter was established to “provide a plug and play solution for biotech start-ups” after Teo realised the incredible amount of capital and time that these companies required just to get off the ground. “We provide access to millions of dollars of high-quality equipment and laboratory management, without which these start-ups would not be able to function. Our mission is to empower more cutting-edge research and development in Singapore and to enable companies to connect with international ecosystems,” she shares.

Founded last November, NSG Biolabs already has 13 companies as tenants, including manufacturing giant Applied Materials and MGI Tech, which recently completed a US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) Series B funding round in May this year.

With so much on her plate, the 37-year-old confesses that she doesn’t have much time to get dressed up in the morning – “although one of the great things about working in a biotech start-up is that there is no dress code”. However, even though she’s been working mostly from home during this period, she still insists on being professional.

(Related: Jeffrey Lu uses big data tools to accelerate discovery of new drugs)

“I have made it a point to dress as usual because it provides a sense of normalcy in these unprecedented times. I believe that as a leader, it is important to maintain consistency and calm, even in the face of external challenges.”

For this shoot, Teo freestyled beyond her comfort zone and chose a red Max Mara tuxedo pantsuit. It isn’t a hue she’d usually pick, but the opportunity to experiment presented itself.

The Max Mara tuxedo jacket with matching pants that Daphne Teo chose from the options presented to her.

The Max Mara dress that Daphne Teo chose from the options presented to her.

The python heels from Jimmy Choo that Daphne Teo paired with the tuxedo jacket and pants.

The python heels from Jimmy Choo that Daphne Teo paired with the tuxedo jacket and pants.

At the end of the day, Teo doesn’t let her dressing define her as a person. Instead, she lets her work do the talking – a hallmark that has stayed with her since she swam competitively for the country.

However, one exception to the rule is the Cartier watch her father gave her when she graduated from Stanford University with a Master’s degree in 2009. “It has deep sentimental value as it recalls my parents’ pride and recognition of the hard work in my life that led to that point.”