Ark launches with US$40mil Series A investment
By Digital News Asia November 27, 2018
- Round led by Venturecraft shareholders, backed by Gaorong Capital
- First product is blood test for early detection of stomach cancer in Asia
SINGAPORE-headquartered Ark, a medtech enterprise focused on early cancer detection, has raised US$40 million (RM167.57 million) in Series A funding.
Ark’s vision is “a world without late-stage cancer” and its mission is to eliminate late-stage cancer related death by 2048 through the introduction of accurate, affordable, and actionable cancer detection technologies.
This Series A round was led by shareholders of Venturecraft and backed by Gaorong Capital (formerly known as Banyan Capital), one of China’s top five venture capital firms with a portfolio of over US$1.7 billion (RM7.1 billion) in committed investments.
Established as a result of a merger between MiRXES and Venturecraft, Ark is kicking off by launching a blood test for early detection of stomach cancer in Asia.
Spun off from A*STAR in 2014, MiRXES had developed a highly sensitive and robust microRNA (miRNA) detection technology and identified novel bloodborne cancer biomarkers that detects early-stage cancer before clinical symptoms appear.
Formed in 2014, Singapore-based Venturecraft, who has been investing in global growth-stage and late-stage ventures in medtech, biotech, and digital health, invested in MiRXES in 2016.
Venturecraft has since been actively supporting MiRXES to commercialise and scale its technologies and products.
With this latest development, MiRXES combines its R&D, manufacturing and commercialisation capabilities with Venturecraft’s clinical assets and venture financing resources to form Ark, an end-to-end solution provider focused on early cancer detection.
The Series A funding will enable Ark to accelerate its internationalisation from Singapore to China and beyond.
MiRXES’ founding team and shareholders of Venturecraft will remain as key strategic shareholders of Ark.
Isaac Ho, co-founder and co-CEO of Ark, shared, “In many ways, the creation of Ark through this merger simply formalises a long-standing relationship between MiRXES and Venturecraft. We have been working together from the very beginning to disrupt cancer via early cancer detection in Asia and the rest of the world and are excited to do this officially as Ark.”
Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, with 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Cancer statistics show that early detection of cancer will improve patient survival rates from as low as 10% to as high as 90%. Furthermore, 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries where people have no access to early cancer detection technologies.
Ark is targeting this vast population in Asia that is at risk of developing cancer, an estimated US$50 billion market (RM209.47 billion). With its headquarters in Singapore and operations in China as well as the United States, Ark will build up necessary infrastructure, including sales channels and diagnostic laboratories, to reach consumers directly with more affordable early cancer detection solutions.
“After years of research and development, we are readying ourselves to move to the battlefront in the war against cancer. Through early detection, many cancers can now be cured or managed with good long-term survival.
“Our partnership with the Singapore medical ecosystem and A*STAR through DxD Hub has been instrumental and has laid a good foundation for us to grow faster in the future.” said Dr. Zhou Lihan, co-founder and co-CEO of Ark.
“Besides our continued focus on R&D and large-scale clinical studies, we are also building key commercial infrastructure and capabilities to prepare for the launch of the tests. We have more than doubled our headcount to over 110 people in the last four months.”
Ark’s first product will be a stomach cancer blood test, developed to detect early stage stomach cancer before symptoms appear.
This test was developed in collaboration with the Singapore Gastric Cancer Consortium (SGCC), A*STAR’s Diagnostics Development Hub (DxD hub), NUH and TTSH; and has recently completed a three-year, multi-center clinical study involving more than 5,000 matched control and stomach cancer subjects.
These collaborations with DxD Hub and other ecosystem players have been crucial for the successful launch of this product in regional markets.
Dr Yeoh Khay Guan, lead principal investigator of SGCC, deputy chief executive at National University Health System (NUHS) as well as Dean, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said: “Currently there is no reliable blood test for the diagnosis of stomach cancer. The blood test developed by Ark is the first of its kind available. Such a test will allow stomach cancer to be detected early so that it can be cured and has the potential to save many lives.”
With the injection of funds, Ark will be scaling up multi-centre clinical studies focused on early cancer detection.
Ark has already set in motion a plan to launch Asia’s largest clinical study that aims to enroll 50,000 participants through partnerships with local governments and medical institutions. The funds will also be used to develop and launch new blood tests for early detection of other high prevalence cancers such as lung, breast and colon cancer.
“Ark is committed to developing innovative, actionable, and affordable test kits for the early detection of deadly and highly prevalent cancers in Asia and around the world. By detecting cancer early when treatment cost is lower, we could also assist in reducing healthcare cost for both patients’ families as well as the healthcare system.” said Dr. Zhou.
Zhang Zhen, founding partner of Gaorong Capital, added: “We are constantly searching for the next gamechanger to positively impact healthcare and create shareholder value. There is a significant unmet need and market opportunity for early cancer detection, we are delighted to support Ark on this meaningful journey”.
Ark’s efforts are supported by Singapore’s A*STAR, Enterprise Singapore, National University of Singapore, National Cancer Centre Singapore, National University Hospital, as well as global collaborators such as Harvard Medical School, The University of Tokyo, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck, among others.
Philip Lim, CEO of public innovation and enterprise office A*ccelerate, said: “We are proud that MiRXES, an A*STAR spin-off, has come so far. Now that it has merged with Venturecraft to form Ark, I believe this local enterprise will scale greater heights. Through A*ccelerate, A*STAR will continue to support Ark.”