June 17, 2024

Singapore-based digital health startup Mesh Bio announced Wednesday it raised $3.5 million in a Series A funding round led by East Ventures, as investors tap into the growing market for high-tech solutions to chronic diseases across Southeast Asia.

Participating in the round were returning investors Elev8, a Singapore-based deeptech-focused VC firm, and SEEDS Capital, an investment arm of the Enterprise Singapore. The six-year-old startup’s Series A comes on the back of its seed funding round of $1.8 million in 2021. Mesh Bio declined to disclose its total amount of funding raised and current valuation.

“With the advent of microprocessors and the advance of the wearable sensor, this huge amount of data has been collected from our lifestyle, from our devices…all these data are actually in their siloes,” says Willson Cuaca, cofounder and managing partner at East Ventures, in a phone interview. “Mesh Bio will become a platform that can connect medical records with all these lifestyle records better.”

The fresh capital will go towards Mesh Bio’s digital twin technology, which produce virtual models, or “twins,” of a patient’s state of health based on their data. Mesh Bio plans to offer its digital twin technology to healthcare providers in Singapore, while expanding operations across Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines, the startup says.

To Cuaca, the implications of Mesh Bio’s digital twin technology are far-reaching. “The digital twin is not just about twinning your body’s health care system,” he says. “In my opinion, it will be twinning the whole world.”

Founded in 2018, Mesh Bio applies predictive analytics to multidimensional patient data–spanning blood test records, heart rate, height, weight and other metrics–in order to personalize medical treatment for chronic diseases. The startup claims its software can help doctors better prescribe precision medicine for chronic diseases involving the metabolism, such as diabetes.

“We’ve developed our software platform, together with the digital twin software and medical device, to sit alongside that patient journey from primary prevention and health screening, into chronic disease management,” says Andrew Wu, cofounder and CEO of Mesh Bio, in a video interview.

Last October, the startup received regulatory approval from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority to market its digital twin software, HealthVector Diabetes, as a software-as-a-medical device. Pilot usage of HealthVector Diabetes is underway at several Singapore hospitals and clinics, the startup says.

While Mesh Bio’s DARA platform starts with targeting primary prevention, involving medical checkups and physical examinations, Wu claims the startup’s digital twin technology then assist with “secondary prevention” that mitigates disease complications. For example, by evaluating a Type 2 diabetes patient’s real-time data with HealthVector Diabetes, medical practitioners could determine whether that patient is in danger of developing chronic kidney disease within three years. “This is where the opportunity and the value of the digital twin can be created,” says Wu, who holds a Ph.D. in biochemical engineering from University College London.

Still, healthcare providers may be reluctant to embrace new systems for sensitive patient data. One key challenge the startup says it’s overcome is gaining “the trust of providers” for digital transformation powered by predictive analytics, Wu adds. In order to ensure the quality of the data collected, Mesh Bio says it offers software tools that can directly integrate (through APIs) with the electronic medical records of healthcare providers.

Noncommunicable diseases, including chronic respiratory conditions and heart disease, caused nearly two-thirds of all deaths in Southeast Asia in 2021, according to an academic review published in the Lancet last October. In a 2023 roadmap for addressing noncommunicable diseases in Southeast Asia, the World Health Organization said preventative measures need to be “scaled up” for hypertension, diabetes control and cervical cancer screening.

Other rising startups in Asia are taking aim at chronic conditions. ChromX health, an honoree of the Forbes Asia 100 to Watch list last year, develops bedside testing devices that the startup claims can screen and diagnose a variety of chronic diseases, such as lung cancer, from exhaled breath. Hong Kong-based Gense Technologies, another honoree, developed a medical-imaging device and accompanying app that can monitor chronic diseases affecting vital organs.

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