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Is Greater China leading the way in digital health?


The entrepreneurial spirit of a very international contingent of teams across my trip.

On my recent trip to China I was there to fulfill a promise I had made to Celina Chew, President of Greater China, Bayer that I made almost 3 years ago. I would see with my own eyes the innovation taking place just 11 hours flight from my home in Berlin. My first visit back in 2017 was just short enough - only 24 hours - to whet the appetite and make me hungry for a longer stay. For my second visit I spent more time and gave myself the opportunity to experience more places and most importantly spend time with the amazing colleagues and entrepreneurs. My “digital health” journey began in Hong Kong and continued on to the “Silicon Valley of China,” also known as Shenzhen. Then it was onto Beijing and finally Shanghai.


Overall I was impressed by the speed and agility of not only the G4A Shanghai & Hong Kong startups but the entrepreneurial spirit of a very international contingent of teams across my trip. There were notably more and more entrepreneurs from Europe and the US who say that they raise money in the West first, before moving to Greater China for expansion. This strategic business and operations move tends to begin in Hong Kong where there is access to China before moving to China itself. Rob Royea, an American who now lives in Hong Kong, is just one such example. His startup Cyrcadia Health and its device pairing, the iTbra, is focused on breast cancer detection.


One of my highlights while in Hong Kong was attending the Healthtech O2O conference, part of StartmeupHK and put together by InvestHK, with Celina and the rest of the great Bayer G4A Family. Dr. Tak-Yi Chui, Under Secretary for Food and Health, Food and Health Bureau, for the Government of Hong Kong, kicked off the conference with a big, big data announcement: there would be a significant new funding made available to enact a state-wide genome database. According to a new report, the goals of this large-scale effort are to (1) promote clinical application of genomic data and (2) promote genomic medical research. We also learned that the Hong Kong EHR was launched with 1 million patients on it and that Hong Kong has seen an 18% growth in startups and 15% growth in job creation in Hong Kong alone. While the relationship between Hong Kong and China is interesting to say the least, it was made clear that Hong Kong is wide open for business. While there, I also had the opportunity to meet with G4A alumni, such as Imsight, Mindfio and AsecoBee.


Also in Hong Kong we met with PingAn, the largest Insurer in China (headquartered in Shenzhen) . Their GoodDoctor platform is attempting to alleviate a current challenge doctors face of only having 90 - 180 seconds of time with each patient. Their solution captures pre-appointment data through at-home, telehealth, and diagnostic means meant to triage where possible, in order to use doctor-patient face time efficiently.


In Shenzhen, known as the “Silicon Valley of China,” my impression of startup speed and agility was reinforced by a company called YiYuan. Their deep-learning medical AI technology is CFDA (China FDA) level 2 approved and is currently in one hospital with over 200,000 lives medical images that are constantly feeding into and training their AI algorithm. What's most impressive about YiYuan though is the pace of their market pivot, while they try to figure out the Medical AI model. Based on a dermatologists recommendation, they moved into the cosmetics and skincare market in under four months.


At G4A we are driven to change the experience of health alongside with the brightest entrepreneurs around the world. So another exciting check in was with our G4A Dealmaker company, Medopad, who is in partnership with Shenzhen-based Tencent across a number of use-cases.


In Beijing I hosted a lunch and learn session at Bayer. I was not expecting such vocal engagement from this audience, but on that day they had a lot of questions and had some great conversations.


We also met with a number of Artificial Intelligence companies in Beijing. Overall, Chinese government increasing interest in AI is driving entrepreneurs to bring their solutions to market. There were a few standout companies in this field. Zhuiyi is all about AI for CRM and they have over 500 clients that touch about 800 million lives. “Zhuiyi Technology develops an artificial intelligence based chatbot for interactions between humans and enterprises. The company offers YiBot, which focuses on deep learning and natural language processing in customer service, big data analysis, and personalized services.” Their key clients today are banks. But imagine what can be done with this for health and care. Another is XtalPI whose collaborations with Pfizer, Google, and a recent 46 million funding round make their AI-driven drug discovery platform very exciting.


In Shanghai, Celina Chew, Vivian Hartman, Sunny Ting and Frederic Dumas hosted a great dinner with our G4A alums such as 5Bay (Wubei), Healthme, Hinounou and Linkheart


All in all, my whirlwind visit was busy and inspiring and left me with many impressions both bold and exciting. To begin with

  1. The speed for which entrepreneurs are innovating is incredible.
  2. I was surprised to see a very international and global contingent of entrepreneurs all working in China.
  3. In order to be successful, you will need a strong (and local) partner.
  4. Chinese FDA is very active, both pushing and pressing towards innovative solutions.
  5. There are a multitude of startups along the value chain of pharma and consumer business already here.

Eugene Borukhovich
Global Head, Digital Health Incubation