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Business deals

Malaysia's IHH leads $20m injection for cancer-test startup Lucence

Health care giant hopes to deploy liquid biopsy technology

IHH Healthcare is one of the largest groups in the sector by market capitalization, employing more than 55,000 people across 80 hospitals in 10 countries, including at this hospital in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo by Keiichiro Asahara)

CEBU, Philippines -- Malaysia's IHH Healthcare has led a $20-million Series A funding round for Singapore-based Lucence, the inventor of blood-based tests for cancer screening and treatment selection, the companies announced Wednesday.

The financing, which will be used by Lucence to bring its liquid biopsy technology to more patients across Asia and North America, was joined by SGInnovate, Temasek's subsidiary Heliconia Capital, Lim Kaling, Koh Boon Hwee, and others.

With the fresh capital, Lucence said it will also embark on new prospective clinical studies to evaluate its technology for the early detection of multiple cancers.

A spinout of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, Lucence develops noninvasive blood tests that it says can help detect cancer early and improve treatment selection.

Last year, the company introduced LiquidHALLMARK, the first and only clinical sequencing blood test that detects both cancer-related gene mutations and cancer-causing viruses within a single assay.

The test has been used by oncologists in cancer diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment selection for over 1,000 patients in Asia to date, according to a company statement. The technology focuses on Asia-prevalent cancers such as lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic, nasopharyngeal, and liver cancers.

"This partnership with IHH Healthcare will accelerate our work to achieve early cancer detection and effective cures, and expand access to this much-needed liquid biopsy technology to patients across Asia and the United States," said Dr. Min-Han Tan, founder and CEO of Lucence.

IHH Healthcare, which is listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia and the Main Board of SGX, said in a separate statement that its investment in Lucence is part of its collaboration with startups to deploy innovative and cutting-edge health care technology to enhance patient experience, treatment, and clinical outcomes.

"Liquid biopsy is a game-changer in our endeavor to provide cancer patients with better, value-driven outcomes through precise treatment selections and more affordable care. Our investment in Lucence will provide IHH patients with better access to this advanced technology," said Dr. Kelvin Loh, Chief Executive Officer (Designate) of IHH Healthcare.

IHH is one of the largest health care groups in the world by market capitalization, employing more than 55,000 people and operating over 15,000 licensed beds across 80 hospitals in 10 countries worldwide. It provides the full spectrum of health care services from clinics and hospitals to quaternary care and a wide range of ancillary services.

Last month, IHH was reported to have initiated talks to sell two of its major assets in India to their original founder-promoters. The two assets are Continental Hospitals and Global Hospitals, wherein IHH Healthcare holds 62.2% and 74% stakes, respectively. Both hospitals are headquartered in Hyderabad.

DealStreetAsia is a financial news site based in Singapore focused on corporate investment activity in Southeast Asia and India. Nikkei recently acquired a majority stake in the company.

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