Cancer screening startup Lucence raises US$20m in funding led by IHH

GENOMIC medicine firm Lucence Diagnostics on Wednesday announced it has closed a US$20 million Series A funding round led by mainboard-listed IHH Healthcare, one of the world’s largest private healthcare groups.

The Singapore-based startup said on Wednesday that the other investors in the round included SGInnovate, Temasek Holdings subsidiary Heliconia Capital, as well as businessmen Lim Kaling and Koh Boon Hwee.

Lucence invents non-invasive blood tests for early cancer detection and improved treatment selection.

With the fresh capital, the startup will be able to provide its liquid biopsy technology to more patients across Asia and North America for personalised treatment selection, said Lucence founder and chief executive Tan Min-Han.

Lucence will also use the financing to start new clinical studies to evaluate its technology for the early detection of multiple cancers.

The startup was founded in 2016 as a spin-off from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star). It raised S$12.9 million in seed funding from private investors in 2017.

Its technology focuses on Asia-prevalent cancers such as lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic, nasopharyngeal and liver cancers.

In January, Lucence introduced the LiquidHALLMARK blood test which detects 14 types of cancers, 50 genetic mutations and two viruses.

On Wednesday, Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare said in a separate statement that its minority investment in Lucence is part of its collaboration with startups to deploy innovative healthcare technology to improve patient experience, treatment and outcomes across its network of 80 hospitals in 10 countries.

The healthcare group’s partnership with Lucence will give IHH patients access to the startup’s suite of cancer diagnostics and artificial intelligence-driven analytics.

It will also accelerate more ground-breaking research to achieve early cancer detection and effective cures, said Lucence’s Dr Tan.

Kelvin Loh, IHH chief executive officer (designate), said: “Liquid biopsy is a game-changer in our endeavour to provide cancer patients with better, value-driven outcomes.”

IHH is also looking to co-develop solutions for patients with Lucence, as well as explore opportunities with other partners in IHH’s 10-country network to sharpen the Malaysian group’s precision medicine capabilities, Dr Loh added.

IHH Healthcare is listed in Singapore and Malaysia. Its shares on the Singapore bourse were trading up one cent or 0.57 per cent at S$1.76 as at 11.37am on Wednesday.

Separately, on Monday, IHH said that its takeover offers for embattled Indian hospital chain Fortis Healthcare will not proceed for the time being, in light of a notice of contempt issued to Fortis by India’s Supreme Court.