HONG KONG – Taiwanese med-tech startup Health2sync Inc. is making its pan-Asia push. With coffers that were recently topped up by a $3 million series A funding round, the company is looking expand across Asia by filling a gap in the market for diabetes monitoring devices.
Health2sync was founded in 2013, providing a comprehensive health management platform for people with diabetes. Their multi-stage patient care system combines mobile, cloud, and data analytics, enabling patients to obtain personalized care, and further allowing family and care providers to take care of the patients remotely.
The funding round, to be used for the company's mobile diabetes-monitoring platform, was led by China- and U.S.-based WI Harper Group and other venture capital firms. Other VCs that participated in the fundraising were Taiwan-based Cherubic Ventures Fund II L.P., U.S.-based Iseed Ventures LLC and South Korean startup accelerator SparkLabs Global Ventures.
With more funds under its belt, the company now plans to expand across other Asian countries.
"In terms of markets Health2sync is looking to expand to [outside of Taiwan], we are primarily focused on Asia, with Japan, China, and Southeast Asia as our top priorities. Many of the markets in Asia have a significant shortage of diabetes professionals, so we want to fill the gap and allow diabetics in these markets to be cared for," Ed Deng, co-founder and CEO of Health2sync, told Medical Device Daily.
Taiwan, with a population of 23.5 million, spends $1.5 billion annually to care for patients on dialysis, a common treatment for kidney failure, said Deng. Roughly 45 percent of kidney failure arises from complications caused by diabetes.
The lack of awareness increases the risk of diabetes, and in Taiwan alone, there is only one certified diabetes educator for approximately every 900 patients. When the ratio includes all of Asia, the diabetes educator to patient ratio is 1:25,000.
Diabetes is recognized as the fastest-growing health problem in the world. Globally, diabetes affects at least 415 million people. Without effective glycemic control, diabetes can increase the risk of heart attack and strokes. Complications of diabetes include kidney failure, nerve damage, dental disease, and skin and eye complication.
Health2sync is trying to meet market demands in Asia by providing a customized multi-part service through a mobile application, a smart cable that connects the patient's glucose meter to the smartphone, and a real-time patient management platform allowing clinicians to interact with patients.
The collected data provides automated, personalized recommendations to diabetes patients by showing how their meals affect their blood sugar levels.
Using the Health2sync system for 120 days, patients were able to lower their average HbA1c from 8.6 percent to 6.89 percent. HbA1c refers to glycated haemoglobin, which develops when the protein within a red blood cell joins with the glucose in the blood.
By measuring HbA1c, clinicians can determine the blood sugar level. The target blood sugar level that diabetes patients aim for is 48 mmol, or 6.5 percent.
Currently, Health2sync's mobile application has more than 12,000 weekly active users, and 30 hospital and clinic partners.
Even before the series A fundraising, the company has been gaining traction in Japan.
"We are already the highest ranking diabetes management app in the Apple Application store and Google Play in Japan," said Deng. "We think there are two reasons our app is well received in Japan. First, we are an Asian company so we feel we can more easily grasp the mentality and needs of Asian users. Our product pays tremendous attention to detail, and our 'Partner' feature really hits on the needs of family members wanting to care for the patient. Second, we really put in a lot of effort to localize our application for Japan. Japanese users see an insulin and oral medical list that is specific to their market."
As of 2015, Japan has 7.2 million people diagnosed with diabetes. The average cost per patient for the country's National Health Insurance is more than ¥400,000 (US$3,873) per year.
With an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, around 7.6 percent of adults between the age of 20 and 79 are diabetic in Japan.
Japan isn't the only country facing an increase in diabetes patients. China and India have the highest number of diabetes patients in the world, along with the largest populations in the world.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, Asia is on track to become the global epicenter for diabetes as dietary habits change and people become less active. Currently there are about 138 million people with diabetes in Asia, and this is projected to rise to 215 million by 2040, with the number of related deaths surging by 46 percent. The disorder affects 8.6 percent of all adults in regional areas.
"We believe we can serve as a bridge connecting patients to care providers, pharmaceuticals, and insurance providers. Providing concrete health benefits to patients, improving efficiency for care providers, and providing marketing and sales opportunities and cost savings for our other partners are the key values we bring," said Deng.