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China tech

China startup finds growth with $765 cancer-screening kit

Genetron rides COVID tailwind as health awareness rises and population ages

Genetron has developed easy-to-use cancer screening test kits, which can be purchased on e-commerce sites. (Source photos by Daiki Katagiri and Genetron Health)

GUANGZHOU, China -- A Chinese startup that provides cancer risk diagnosis and other services is showing rapid growth as the country's aging population, shocked by the novel coronavirus, is beginning to take its health more seriously.

Genetron Health, whose kits offer more gene-analysis reagents than competitors' products, is generating wide-ranging demand as Chinese grow increasingly aware of the importance of early detection in the treatment of cancer.

The company's cancer screening test kits are easy to use. Users spit into a container, seal the container and shake it several times so that their saliva mixes with a reagent. They send the specimen to an analysis center and in about 30 days receive a report on their risk of developing cancers.

The test kit sells for 4,999 yuan ($765) on an e-commerce site. The service can examine 23 types of genes to determine whether there is the risk of developing eight types of cancers, including stomach, colon and ovary cancers, according to Genetron.

The company's strength is in the precision and type of products used in its kits. It offers seven types of in vitro diagnostic products certified by China's pharmaceutical authorities, compared with one to three types offered by rival companies.

Its sales grew 40% to over 320 million yuan ($48.9 million) in 2019, though operating losses amounted to 300 million yuan because of increasing upfront investments.

Genetron in June raised $261 million by going public on the Nasdaq market in the U.S. It is using the funds for research and development as well as sales promotions as it endeavors to expand its market share.

In China, 4.4 million people developed cancer in 2019, a figure that is expected to be 10% higher in 2023.

Genetron CEO Sizhen Wang says the pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of genetic testing for the prevention and treatment of major diseases. (Photo by Yusuke Hinata)

After the new coronavirus struck, "a renewed recognition arose on how important genetic testing is for the prevention and treatment of serious diseases," Genetron CEO Sizhen Wang said.

As Chinese grow more concerned about the potential disruptions to their lives that diseases pose, competition among businesses that offer testing and early treatment is likely to intensify.

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