Malaysian-owned advanced medical informatics company valued at RM500mil claims founder
iGene rolling out Digital Autopsy System across 18 facilities in the UK under Build-Own-Operate model
IT is without doubt, the single largest venture capital investment made into a Malaysian tech company. Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM), just two weeks after making an RM15 million (US$5 million) investment into US-based cardiac device Mardil Medical Inc, has made an incredible RM70 million (US$22.7 million) investment into iGene Sdn Bhd, “an advanced medical informatics company” as its founder Matt Chandran (pic) describes it.
The investment values iGene at RM200 million. While this looks really impressive, according to Chandran, there has been a range of valuations by “top M&A consultants” and the general consensus puts iGene’s valuation at around a cool RM500 million.
“This takes into account the global opportunities that iGene can potentially capture with its digital imaging technology in the forensic, living and animal markets,” says Chandran.
The RM70 million may seem like a lot of money but it will not be enough for the global ambitions Chandran has. “We will need to raise more money later,” he says.
In essence, AIM has received a big discount with its investment. According to Chandran, iGene will be able to buy back its equity from AIM if it meets agreed upon financial milestones.
The investment by AIM, through an investment company, is the second by the Malaysian Government as Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd or Mavcap, had invested RM7.5 million in iGene in 2007. Its research and development efforts also got a boost from the Techno Fund run by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation with a RM5.42 million grant in 2005.
But what exactly does iGene do that has earned it such lofty valuations?
Its killer product is a Digital Autopsy System which allows for autopsies to be conducted with no cutting of a body. This puts it in the good books of all the major religious bodies which abhor the age-old forensic method of slicing up the dead when the need arises to determine cause of death.
iGene is currently building a Digital Autopsy System in the United Kingdom, consisting of four full scale Digital Autopsy facilities and 14 Digital Autopsy scanning centers with all the information feeding into one data center.
It is based on the Build-Own-Operate model. Chandran declines to reveal how much the full system will cost to build.
Revenue will come from the 220,000 deaths in the United Kingdom that are classified as “medico legal” and require a post-mortem. “We intend to charge ₤500 per case,” he adds.
iGene has garnered the support of a wide swathe of officials in the United Kingdom for its system, says Chandran. “This ranges from support from the Ministry of Justice to the Chief Coroners Office under the Home Ministry which has issued new guidelines for digital autopsies, and we also have the Royal College of Radiologists and Royal College Pathologists to support this.”
In fact, Chandran says that iGene is very lucky to get such wide support from various bodies in the United Kingdom. This is aside from the political support which he claims starts from the office of the Prime Minister David Cameron. “As a private company, the support we are getting is fantastic,” he claims.
That was not the case when he first tried to introduce the system in Malaysia back in 2004. A pilot was done but things did not move beyond that. Chandran is sanguine about the experience then and points out that Malaysia is not known as an introducer of technology and that probably played a big part in why his Digital Autopsy did not take off then.
But moving beyond, iGene is now researching into using its imaging technology to be applied to the living and to animals. In the case of animals, he highlights horse racing, a multimillion-dollar sport.
“Yet the way of treating horses has not changed much,” he notes. If a prized horse is injured, it is the call of the veterinian on whether the horse can fully heal and race again.
But with our digital autopsy, the vets will be able to see exactly the extent of the injury without having to perform surgery on the horse,” he says, adding, “We could change an entire industry practise with our technology and who says we can’t do the same for healthcare too.”
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