From Singapore-based Quadria Capital to China’s Long Hill Capital, the Asian healthcare sector is receiving immense attention from players across the region.
The early-stage venture firm HealthXCapital too is following the suit, with a twist. Its newly launched Emerging Asia’s first healthcare focused early stage venture fund focuses on areas that remain unexplored till now—accessibility and affordability, two of the major healthcare issues affecting people in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Backed by Jungle Ventures, Apollo Hospitals and Eight Roads Ventures,the $25 million fund, which launched on 11 October, intends to fuel healthcare innovation in the region, which has long been reeling under the pressure of underdeveloped infrastructure and high cost of treatments, by focusing on digital health, diagnostics, devices as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
We spoke to Seemant Jauhari, partner at HealthXCapital, to understand the focus of the fund. Edited excerpts:
How will this fund tackle Asia’s rising healthcare demands through the use of AI and ML?
Technology holds the key to enable quality healthcare and to become more accessible to people in Asia. This becomes particularly relevant in the context that organically, it is unlikely that we can scale the infrastructure and resources adequately and in time.
HealthXCapital is focused on innovations that can enable healthcare to be taken out of hospitals/clinics and brought nearer to people, thus making it more accessible. This can be done through virtual consults, point-of-care diagnostics, and online medicine delivery. AI enables patient interactions to diagnose his/her problem more intelligently, to begin with, and strengthens diagnostics by analysing data and sharing the same with a medical practitioner located remotely. Furthermore, AI improves the accuracy of diagnosis in several cases and enables the efficiency of processes. For example, AI application on imaging systems such as CT/MRI can quickly identify areas for doctors to see in more detail.
Are you looking at any specific healthcare concerns in Asia?
Cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and cancer are some of the top challenges we are looking to.
Access to quality healthcare is one of the prime issues at the moment. How will this fund address this through technology?
The healthcare cost burden is relatively heavier for the masses in emerging Asia given lower per capita income. Therefore, it becomes more important to be able to screen them for possible diseases, intervene in time and have them stay healthy to prevent higher healthcare spends later. For example, in India, cervical cancer incidence in women is very high. This can be addressed by exploring the deployment of upcoming technology for a point-of-care screening of cervical and breast cancer in low resource settings.
Remote healthcare through virtual consults on smartphones shall further allow quality doctors to consult patients located far away. Connected devices allow quality data to help in remote diagnosis for timely interventions. Smaller clinics in tier two or three cities will be able to undertake minimal diagnostics in absence of lab facilities.
Lastly, out-of-box solutions such as using drones for emergencies, collection of blood samples and delivery of medications to inaccessible locations, coupled with virtual consults, can help close the loop with patients located in the last mile.
How involved will you be with the startups?
We are a healthcare-focused fund comprising of domain experts and a network of healthcare stakeholders. Post investment, we draw out a roadmap of how we can work intensely with the investee company to maximize its impact to address a real problem, and in the process accelerate its commercialization. Post the roadmap, we work with our partners to expedite commercialization. We also co-create solutions with our startups, which lead to additional revenue streams or expedited reach to market. Given our network with providers, we are able to bring forth clinical insights consistently to assess the offering and evolve continuously.
What are you looking for in healthcare startups?
The startup should be solving a real-world problem in healthcare, should be high on innovation and impact potential. It should ideally have been clinically validated and should have a proven monetization model albeit even small revenues. Needless to say, a founder’s passion, vision, ability to lead a team and the team strength itself are key to long-term success.