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Health and wellness

Hong Kong genes testing start-up Prenetics buys UK peer DNAFit to broaden consumer reach 

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 April, 2018, 11:38am

Gene testing company Prenetics has acquired UK-based DNAFit to expand its global footprint and extend its reach in the consumer market.

Prenetics, which partners with insurers to provide genetic profiling to help people tailor their diets, do family planning and assess the risk of hereditary cancers, paid for the purchase by cash and in shares, said chief executive Danny Yeung. 

DNAFit works directly with consumers, using their genetic information to help them achieve their health, fitness and nutritional goals.

Yeung, a San Francisco native who moved to Hong Kong in 2010 to set up the purchasing platform uBuyiBuy that was later acquired by Groupon, declined to divulge the acquisition price.

He left Groupon, where he was head of East Asia, to set up Prenetics in 2014. The company has bases in Hong Kong and the UK. 

“Prenetics adds a proven [business-to-consumer] channel via the acquisition of DNAFit, supplementing its current strength in [business-to-business] product partnership offerings through large insurers and corporates,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

The global genetic-profiling services market could mushroom from US$1.3 billion in 2019 to US$50 billion by 2026, according to a prediction by Brussels-based marketing consultancy Alex D. Little, cited by Prenetics. 

“A similar adoption curve makes it highly likely that the current small market for consumer genetic testing – similar to feature phones – has just undergone the same shift as the phone market did in 2007,” the consultancy said in November last year. 

Millions of individuals around the world have been “genotyped” by companies such as 23andme and Ancestry.com, Prenetics said. 

With over 100 staff, Prenetics has a significant presence outside Hong Kong, mainly in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

“We are also actively looking to expand into [mainland] China,” said Yeung. 

Prenetics is considering seeking a stock market listing in Hong Kong, he said, “especially since we are a home-grown biotech company here … it is our vision to expand our technology globally”. 

Prenetics’ genetic tests can be done by collecting a saliva sample, and the results can be viewed via a mobile app, which gives the user access to health recommendations, including a live chat function with “health coaches”. 

Although such services are also available in the US, Yeung said in a 2016 interview that its service was cheaper than those in the United States since its core technology was developed by three professors from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and City University Hong Kong.

“We don't have to pay any licence fees [because] the test is done in-house at our own laboratory,” said Yeung at the time. "[There is] no outsourcing of anything.”

Prenetics had completed two rounds of fundraising by October last year, raising over US$50 million.

Its investors include Ping An Ventures, the venture capital arm of Ping An Insurance Group, Indonesian Lippo Group-backed Venturra Capital and Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, a not-for-profit initiative of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post.  

Separately, Shanghai-based Qiming Ventures Partners, said in a statement on Monday it has closed a US$120 million US health-care fund, and two other funds – one worth US$935 million and one worth 2.1 billion yuan – focused on investing in the internet, consumer, health care, information technology and clean-energy technology sectors.