DNA-testing startup Prenetics has inked an investment deal with Venturra Capital, the independent venture capital firm backed by Indonesia’s Lippo Group, one of the nation’s richest family-owned conglomerates. Prenetics CEO Danny Yeung says Venturra Capital will invest an undisclosed amount worth several milliondollars.
The Hong Kong-based medtech startup says Lippo Group will act as a strategic partner for an initial period of five years in Indonesia. Prenetics will launch its iGenes pharmacogenomics test in the country. Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affects a person’s response to drugs. iGenes is a non-invasive, saliva-based test that delivers reports to physicians within 48 hours. The resultant report can supposedly identify the right drug, at the right dosage, tailored to a patient’s genetic make-up.
Prenetics secured a seed funding round of US$2.65 million in December from 500 Startups’ Khailee Ng, Mark Chang (founder and CEO of Jobstreet), Joel Neoh (founder of Groupon Malaysia; current Groupon APAC VP), COENT Venture Partners, and Yeung himself.
Non-invasive tests are the future
“Precision medicine is the future of healthcare and we intend to make it accessible soon throughout Indonesia," says John Riady, Lippo Group director and managing partner of Venturra Capital. "Healthcare today needs reform as it is expensive, reactive, inefficient, and focused largely on one-size fits-all treatments for chronic illness and cancer. An answer is personalized, predictive, and preventive medicine.”
"Every year, millions suffer as a result of adverse drug reactions and [it] is the fourth leading cause of death, a majority of these adverse drug reactions are preventable,” explains Yeung.
In its home market, Prenetics targets mothers-to-be in mainland China who could come to Hong Kong to take its non-invasive test. CEO Danny Yeung recently told Tech in Asia that about 30 million mainland Chinese come to Hong Kong each year and stay at least overnight – that’s the target demographic. Although invasive tests involving a needle carry a mathematically small risk, Yeung says any risk involving a baby is too high. For example, an amniocentesis test, which involves the sampling of a small amount of amniotic fluid, brings with it the risk of preterm labor and delivery, respiratory distress, or even a miscarriage. Prenetics’ non-invasive test can be done from week ten of pregnancy. Though the tech makes it safer and is more accurate, it’s not cheaper than the old invasive tests — it costs around US$1,000.
Andy Liu, former Asia president of IMS Health, a company that provides information, services and tech for the healthcare industry, says healthcare-related costs are increasing by double digits annually. IMS did a study in recent years and concluded wrong medications represent the number one most avoidable cost in healthcare, with a more than US$200 billion opportunity in markets like the US. In terms of population and potential demand in Asia, that number could be much higher.
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