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China technology

PingAn Tech Fund joins backers for Israeli infection diagnostic firm MeMed

Funding raised from nine investors will help MeMed expand in China, where its technology can be used to help tackle medical issues, such as battling overprescriptions of antibiotics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 8:42am

PingAn Global Voyager Fund, the US$1 billion global technology investment fund of Ping An Insurance, has joined eight other investors in backing Israeli infection diagnostic tool maker MeMed’s US$70 million series C-round funding, helping the company expand its immune-system based test to China and elsewhere.

Also joining the latest funding round is Horizons Ventures, a Hong Kong-based venture capital fund founded by Solina Chau, who is also a major shareholder of Tom.com and a director of the Li Ka Shing Foundation. Horizons Ventures has already backed MeMed’s earlier rounds of financing. Other investors in the latest round include a mixture of venture funds and companies, such as Taiwanese contract electronic maker Foxconn, Phoenix Insurance, Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd.

Sources said Ping An Global Voyager Fund has invested US$20 million in MeMed.

The fund seeks out investments in technologies deemed useful to the Ping An Insurance Group, and also helps companies looking to partner with Ping An to gain market access and distribution in China.

Eran Eden, MeMed’s co-founder and chief executive, said the nine-year old company plans to use the funds to expedite commercialisation and adoption of its testing platform, MeMed BV, in China.

“There is a daunting problem of antibiotic misuse in China whereby antibiotics are being prescribed to treat non-bacterial infections, a problem which is presenting major health and financial challenges,” said Eden.

Eden added that antibiotic misuse was a problem affecting the medical community worldwide.

In terms of average annual volume of antibiotics, China consumes more than 10-fold that of the US, according to a 2012 report by the IMS Institute. Excessive antibiotic use is associated with 80,000 to 150,000 deaths annually in China, and estimated to incurred tens of billions of yuan in unnecessary medical spending, according to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research published in 2010.

Many patients and even some doctors erroneously view antibiotics as a panacea for all illnesses, failing to recognise that antibiotics, which target bacterial infection, will not cure viral infections.

MeMed’s first generation test, MeMed BV, has already been used in up to 12,000 patients in Israel, and is also approved for clinical use in the Euro zone and Switzerland. The test runs in two hours and requires technicians to operate the device. A newer version under development runs on a diagnostic device, MeMed Key, which can yield results in 15 minutes using computational algorithms that assist physicians in determining whether a patient is fighting a virus or bacteria.

Unlike other conventional solutions, MeMed uses the human immune system as the disease sensor, and this, it claims, enables more accurate prescription of antibiotics. Other conventional solutions could also take up to two days, Eden added.

The latest funding has brought the company’s total private equity financing to US$100 million.

Eden said MeMed will spend the funding on completing the development of MeMed Key, and will seek regulatory approval in Europe and the US before China.

A study commissioned by the British government and the Wellcome Trust published in 2016 estimated that by 2050 drug-resistant infections will cause 10 million death per year, and US$100 trillion in lost economic output between 2016 to 2050.

Resistance to antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, means that the micro-organisms causing the infection survive the exposure to a medicine that would normally kill them, prompting the emergence of “superbugs”, or strains of bacteria that are resistant to several types of antibiotics.

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