Riding the Health and Biotech Waves

Health tech company: Scanadu Inc

iGlobe’s portfolio companies, Twist, Ginkgo and Scanadu, are no newbies to the latest movements in the health and biotech sectors.

Big Hero 6 was a hit in 2014 (and by the way, Big Hero 7 is coming!). The story stretches our imaginations to various applications of science & radical inventions. It dazzles us with cool gadgets, San Fransyokyo’s surrealism, the goofy yet geeky team of tinkerers, and a bizarre dream of the future. It spoke of our dreams of having digitally accessible yet personal and intelligent healthcare companion.

Perhaps, it is still a long way for us to go before we achieve that aspiration of healthcare at the intersection of digital services, analytics and robotics. But we are heading there.

The healthcare start up ecosystem ranges from the back-end data management system (e.g. EHR, medical big data, data security), to apps for patient personal usage (e.g. fitness tracking, vital signs monitoring), for doctor personal usage (e.g. appointment scheduling, doctor communication) and for doctor and patient collaboration (e.g. teleconsultation, tele-monitoring, doctor discovery). In 2014, the investments in digital health surpassed USD4.1 billion, nearly the total of the previous 3 years combined. This represents a 125% year on year growth in funding compared to 2013.

“Jurassic World” (2015) portrays another dimension of human’s aspiration- the ability to genetically modify human, animal or plant genetic make-up. Scientists have been working towards that goal by first attacking the challenge of sequencing human genome at high speed and lower costs.

Biotechnology has played a pivotal role in revolutionising our living condition. Chicken pox vaccination was introduced to England in 1717. Alexander Flemming discovered the antibacterial properties of Penicillin in 1929. The structure of DNA was unveiled in 1952 and Fred Sanger devised the whole protein in 1955. Genome sequencing created vast opportunities for delivering personalised medicine.

iGlobe’s portfolio companies, Twist, Ginkgo and Scanadu, are no newbies to the latest movements happening in the health/ biotech sectors. They have made strides towards these dreams in the past years.

Biotech company: Twist Bioscience
Source: Twist Bioscience

Twist clinched a deal with Microsoft and the University of Washington to turn DNA into hard drive for data storage. 10,000 strands of custom DNA were bought, an attempt to safeguard digital data in the event of global apocalypse.

Companies like Microsoft seem bullish about synthetic genes as an alternative to the current storage. A single gram of gene promises 700 terabytes of data storage, according to Harvard scientists.

Having “the whole internet in a shoebox” is no longer science fiction’s dream, it seems.

Synthetic genes also have the advantage of superior durability. While archaic magnetic tape storage, often used by banks and hospitals, wears out after 30 years, DNA stays totally undamaged for as long as 10,000 years.

The Twist team will operate on a new scale for the upcoming years. Paula Green recently joined as vice president of human resources and Mark Daniels was appointed general counsel. Twist’s acquisition of Israel-based Genome Compiler Corporation will also be critical for grabbing hold of more market opportunities ahead.

Biotech company: Ginkgo Bioworks
Source: TechCrunch

Ginkgo recently accomplished a 100-million round in Series C financing, bringing total funding size since establishment up to $154 million. The hefty round was used to purchase 600 million base pairs of manufactured DNA, up from the original intention of 100 million announced in spring 2015. This is by far the “largest amount of synthetic DNA ever purchased”.

The millions of genetic base pairs allow Ginkgo to set foot on new areas such as “commodity chemicals, industrial enzymes, and human health markets.” Two major synthetic DNA manufacturers, Twist Bioscience and Gen9, have joined hands with Ginkgo on this project.

Some cash was set aside for the construction of Bioworks2, a new 70,000 square-foot plant which will be used for prototype testing of the new verticals.

Health tech company: Scanadu Inc
Source: Principled Technology

Walter has huge ambitions for his brainchild, Scanadu Scout- democratising healthcare data for all. Jerry Yang, former CEO of Yahoo, shared the same sentiment. He said, “Scanadu is right at the heart of the next generation of computing which combines mobility, sensors, cloud, and big data,”

Since its birth, many have came onboard with Scanadu. 8,500 backers from 2013 Indiegogo campaign brought $1.6 million to the Company. Tony Hsieh, Zappos Inc. founder, Redmile Group, Broe Group and Mindful Investments shared the ride afterwards in Series A funding. Series B funding pulled in another group of investors, from Fosun International, to Tencent Holdings, China Broadband Capital, iGlobe Partners and Sungent BioVenture.

In 2016, Walter announced his departure from CEO position of Scanadu, while retaining his board seat.

“Now, it’s time to scale our operations rapidly and begin the next chapter of Scanadu. Two years ago, I recruited Jaime Tenedorio to Scanadu. Jaime has a long track record of driving the successful commercialization of products in the medical device and wireless healthcare sectors. He has served as COO, CTO and SVP at several start-ups overseeing rapid growth.”

Walter may have stepped aside, but his vision lived on. Jaime and the team have since made positive progress on all fronts. The team has pushed hard to obtain approval for the device as medical-grade diagnostic in both China and the U.S.

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