30 Under 30 Asia: The Young Entrepreneurs Innovating In Healthcare
To Ryuichi Onose, launching his own business was led by deeply personal reasons. When his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, Onose struggled to get a second opinion. The former trading company employee decided there had to be a better way, especially for another view on treatment, and approached Japanese investment fund ANRI, who introduced him to bioengineer Takao Yasui. Together, they founded Craif in 2018 to focus on early cancer detection.
The Tokyo-based startup will check for cancers, including lung and ovarian, at its lab by using AI to analyze urine samples collected by its own proprietary device. “When everybody said that urine wouldn’t work, that’s when I thought that that was an opportunity,” Onose says. Its point of differentiation: it can extract more biomarker data than others in the industry, he adds. Craif, which raised $7.5 million in funding so far, aims to launch the testing service next year. Eventually the firm hopes to broaden the range of illnesses screened, offer the best treatment options and expand in Japan and overseas.
Craif is just one of the startups on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list seeking to change healthcare in Asia. Among the honorees in the Healthcare & Science category are young entrepreneurs building online pharmacies, developing novel medical devices and using AI to provide alternative healthcare services.
Take, for example, Chen Chee Yang’s Carta Genomics. A neuroscientist who was born via the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process 29 years ago, Chen founded the startup in 2018 to help IVF parents. The Singapore-based company uses AI and machine learning to analyze multiple genes working together, and predicts the risks of disease for each embryo in the future. “An IVF baby myself, the ability to help parents make one of the biggest decisions in their lives, and to ensure babies are healthy to the fullest extent before implantation, is something I’m very passionate about and want to see happen in this world,” says Chen.
In the meantime, Shawn Li’s E3A Healthcare, which is also based in Singapore, is developing noninvasive care for newborns. The startup’s first product is PTMaster, a phototherapy device that combines optoelectronics and signal processing to monitor jaundice in infants.
Providing better medical support to newborns also motivated Edward Buijs and Amy Yu. Their Melbourne-based Ventora Medical is developing a device to continuously monitor airway pressure—a feature they say is lacking in traditional breathing support systems, causing inaccuracies because clinicians have to manually set the level of respiratory support and make adjustments based on symptoms and clinical signs shown by infants.
In China, Sun Pengming’s Yrobot is making assistive device to help patients recover from stroke. The lightweight wearable product employs AI to detect motion and provide support, an innovative feature helping the Suzhou-based startup raise funding from A-list investors including Hillhouse Capital and the investment arm of Chinese search engine operator Baidu.
“In China there are 8.7 million stroke survivors with lower-limb disabilities, and 1.4 million more new stroke patients per year,” says Sun. “More effective walking assistance devices to improve their mobility are in urgent need.”
Nicole Liu, founder of Kin Fertility.
This year’s 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs also want to bring healthcare services online. For example, Nicole Liu’s Kin Fertility is tapping into what she sees as a growing demand for quality and convenient reproductive healthcare in Australia. The Sydney-based startup operates an online contraception subscription service, where users fill out a questionnaire, consult with doctors and can have their contraceptive pills delivered to them on a regular basis.
Samarth Sindhi’s Digi-Prex is an online pharmacy seeking to attract patients diagnosed with chronic diseases. The Hyderabad-based startup arranges for monthly delivery of medicines to patients who have uploaded their prescriptions through the WhatsApp messaging platform. Delivery is free, and the drug prices are up to 15% cheaper than local pharmacies because Digi-Prex works directly with distributors to place orders. Sindhi raised $5.5 million in seed money in 2019 from investors including Khosla Ventures, Y Combinator, and Justin Mateen, cofounder of Tinder.