China's early cancer screening industry is on the development fast track, as firms strive with technological innovations to meet growing domestic market demand, industry experts said.
Berry Oncology, a Chinese startup focusing on genomic testing of cancers, has completed a series B1 round of financing of nearly 700 million yuan ($108 million), which increased its total fundraising to about 2 billion yuan, the highest level in China's early cancer screening industry.
Founded in August 2017, the company has launched a series of clinical research projects for early screening and diagnosis covering liver, lung, and gynecologic cancers. It claimed it has cooperated with more than 700 hospitals nationwide to provide genetic testing services for more than 100,000 tumor patients.
Shi Lichen, founder of medical consulting firm Beijing Dingchen Consultancy, said theoretically the sky is the limit for early cancer detection industry players as they also target healthy people rather than just cancer patients.
"Cancer is the top killer among the Chinese and people are scared. They are willing to pay for effective tools to help detect cancer early," Shi said. "Besides, the Chinese authorities have reiterated in various guidelines and documents the importance of early detection and intervention for the prevention and control of cancer among the population."
Haitong International Securities Group Ltd estimated in a report that China's early cancer detection market will reach more than 162 billion yuan in value in 10 years.
New Horizon Health, a biotech focusing on innovative technologies for early cancer screening, raised HK$2.42 billion ($310 million) in an initial public offering in Hong Kong during February, with the firm's IPO being oversubscribed 4,133 times.
Founded in 2013, the Hangzhou-headquartered firm has a rich pipeline covering colorectal, cervical, gastric, and lung cancers. It got the first colorectal cancer screening product approval from China's National Medical Products Administration in November last year, targeting a high-risk group of colorectal cancer for people in the 40 to 74 age group.
While it is commonly known that early detection and intervention are crucial to increase cancer treatment efficiency and reduce mortality, about 70 percent of Chinese cancer patients are already at the middle-to-late stage of the disease when they seek medical advice for the first time, according to a recent report by VCbeat Research that cites statistics from sources such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Roughly 10,000 cancer patients get diagnosed in China each day, and the country accounted for about 24 percent of newly diagnosed cancer cases and 30 percent of cancer-related deaths in the world last year, the report said.
Zhou Jun, CEO of Berry Oncology, said the early cancer screening industry is a billion dollar market under rapid development, not only because early cancer screening demand is rigid for many kinds of cancer, but also because the sector has received serious attention from the government, investors, and healthcare enterprises.
In 2018, Berry Oncology launched a national project called PreCar, which is China's largest liver cancer screening project. Based on the project, the company has developed a technology for early cancer detection that boasts sensitivity and specificity of up to 95.42 percent and 97.91 percent, respectively.
The company claimed its product can detect early tumor changes six to 12 months before traditional testing methods, saving valuable time for medical intervention.
Berry Oncology will strengthen product research and development innovations to meet the enormous demand, Zhou added.