Singapore’s state-owned investment firm Temasek and Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma-backed Yunfeng Capital have led a $75 million Series B into WuXi AppTec’s genomics subsidiary WuXi NextCODE.
Both Temasek and Yunfeng are existing investors of WuXi AppTec. Amgen Ventures, a fund established by Amgen, and Greater China-focused private equity firm 3W Partners also participated in the rounds.
A genomic information company acquired by WuXi AppTec in 2015, WuXi NextCODE harbors massive human genome data for application in clinical diagnostics and other genomic health products. The company has offices in Shanghai, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Reykjavik, Iceland.
“Our rapidly expanding business is serving the world’s leading precision medicine initiatives as well as genome-driven diagnostics and wellness enterprises worldwide,” said Hannes Smarason, CEO of WuXi NextCODE, in a statement.
Precision medicine is what the company is after right now. Last May, WuXi NextCODE joined forces with Chinese telecom giant Huawei to launch the China Precision Medicine Cloud, bringing together Huawei’s expertise in cloud computing and WuXi’s in mining and organizing genomics big data under a national initiative in precision medicine.
Capitals go where there is government policy support, and this recent investment in WuXi NextCODE could be interpreted as a manifestation of that formula in China.
Like the U.S.’ Precision Medicine Initiative launched by former President Barack Obama in January 2015, China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, together with the Ministry of Science and Technology, has also been working on a Chinese version since 2015, planning to invest 60 billion Chinese yuan ($8.7 billion) from government funds and private investments by 2030. That policy was included under China’s 13th Five-Year Plan spanning 2016 to 2020.
The company says in the release that the money from this round will be used on commercialization of its consumer products for the Chinese market, and to expand its capabilities in artificial intelligence and deep learning.
Right now in China, WuXi NextCODE is already offering consumer genetic tests for pregnant women and families to help them detect heritable disease risk factors or rare conditions a child would suffer from.
The country experienced a birth boom that saw more than 17.86 million babies born in 2016—the highest since 2000—as government loosened up on the one-child policy. And the nation’s health authorities are advocating for more wide-spread prenatal tests, including genomic ones, to reduce birth defects—currently around 5.6% according to a 2012 government report.
The company is also pioneering gold-standard whole-genome wellness scan in China to help individuals identify potential disease risks and provide advice on how to stay healthy.
Outside of China, WuXi NextCODE landed in January a collaboration deal with the National Heart Centre Singapore to advance Singapore’s own genomic research and precision medicine initiative. WuXi NextCODE is building a queriable cloud-based database with whole-genome sequence, medical and wearables data from both cardiovascular patients and healthy control subjects. That partnership focuses first on heart diseases and will expand to other therapeutic areas.
Through another long-term alliance formed in January with AbbVie and Genomics Medicine Ireland, NextCODE is sequencing genomes of 45,000 participants in Ireland to identify novel targets for clinical development in oncology, neuroscience and immunology.