Singapore-based genetic testing startup Nalagenetics today announced that it has closed a US$1 million pre-seed funding round led by venture capital firm East Ventures, with participation of Intudo Ventures and a number of strategic angel investors.
Nalagenetics was built with the goal to create cost-effective genetic tests tailored to Asian populations, as existing tests are not only expensive, but also based on Caucasian populations.
The startup works with healthcare providers, such as hospitals, to test and discover potential drug adverse reaction and low prescription efficacy based on patient’s genetic make-up.
In addition to the testing, Nalagenetics also provides an app that will help healthcare providers with recommended treatments and track patients’ response to the treatment.
It will use the funding to complete ongoing proof-of-value projects in partnership with hospitals and providers in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as for talent acquisitions.
In an interview with e27, Nalagenetics co-founder Levana Sani explained the problem that the company aims to solve with its solution.
“A significant portion of the drugs that we use today has genetic component in them, so ideally, we should really know which one suits you best based on your genetics before you get prescribed something,” she said.
“The trial-and-error process [in providing a prescribed medication] is not only a waste of money, but there is also the risk for adverse reaction, from drowsiness to a more systemic reaction from your body,” she continued.
In a press statement, the startup explained that a survey has revealed that eight per cent of hospital admissions in Singapore was due to adverse drug reaction, with only about 50 per cent drugs delivering positive effects.
Similarly, adverse drug reaction are also estimated to waste about US$30 billion of healthcare resources in the US.
The history of Nalagenetics began in the Genome Institute of Singapore, where the co-founders –Dr. Jianjun Liu, Dr. Astrid Irwanto, Dr. Alexander Lezhava, and Sani– were working on bringing to market a genetic biomarker that they have discovered.
The biomarker was meant to determined which leprosy patients are likely to have a potentially fatal adverse reaction, called Dapsone Hypersensitivity Syndrome (DHS), during their treatments.
The project then caught the attention of the Indonesian government, which went on to become the startup’s first customer. The co-founders then broadened their research into other diseases and medications and created a commercial venture from it.
With the Indonesian government, the startup has been working on a project to deploy the test in the remote island of Papua since 2017.
Nalagenetics monetised through contracts with hospitals and government institutions; to use their service, patients need to undergo a treatment with healthcare providers that have partnered with them. The startup does not directly market their service to patients in order to maintain the quality and accuracy of the service.
In addition to the Indonesian government, it is also working on pilot project with doctors and hospitals in Singapore and Indonesia.
Sani told e27 that the startup is currently in talks to partner with more governments for the project.
Nalagenetics has been incubated in Harvard’s Venture Incubation Program and obtained support to develop and validate their genetic tests at Genome Institute of Singapore through Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL).
Image Credit: Nalagenetics