Based in Singapore, Lucence Diagnostics is developing non-invasive cancer screening technologies at a global scale. The company started in 2016 with a liquid biopsy test that provides a non-invasive, affordable way of selecting targeted medication for lung cancer patients. Three years later, Lucence has expanded its disease detection technology to detect and improve treatment for 14 types of cancer.
Lucence uses genomics to develop its approach to treating cancer, as genomic medicine personalises healthcare to each patient’s genetic makeup. According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, genomic testing differs from genetic testing by taking all genes into consideration, not just a specific gene or set of genes. It looks for harmful gene alterations anywhere in a patient’s genetic code.
“No two people are the same, and neither are their cancers,” Lucence explains on its website. “This means that even if two people are diagnosed with the same cancer, they may respond differently to the same treatment. Therefore, the first step to fighting cancer begins with uncovering the mutations that drive each person’s cancer.
“Our genome-based diagnostic tests allow doctors to see the clearer picture and make more informed decisions for better cancer care.”
The genomic medicine startup was founded in 2016 by oncologist Dr Min-Han Tan and spun out from Singapore’s Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Since then, the company with a vision of “a world without avoidable cancer deaths” has extended to offices in San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Suzhou, China.
A couple years after its founding, Lucence launched LiquidHALLMARK, “the first and only clinical sequencing blood test that detects both cancer-related genetic mutations and cancer-causing viruses with a single assay” and looks for signs of 14 types of cancer, including lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic, nasopharyngeal and liver cancers. The test is based on AmpliMARK, the company’s core molecular watermarking technology to generate improved accuracy and depth in sequencing results.
LiquidHALLMARK has been used for 1,000 patients in Asia so far. In 2019, Lucence’s Singapore laboratory became the first laboratory in Southeast Asia to be CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited, allowing the company to bring LiquidHALLMARK to the United States.
“Our mission is to reduce worldwide suffering through early cancer detection,” CEO Dr Tan said in a statement. “As a medical oncologist, I have worked in the clinic and the laboratory for over a decade, striving towards a world where cancer can be overcome with early screening.”
Lucence has raised $20 million in Series A funding to expand its liquid biopsy technology across Asia and North America. The company will also embark on new prospective clinical studies—one will concentrate on variables in late-stage cancer patients and the other will focus on its technology’s use for early-stage detection in several types of cancer.
The funding round was led by IHH Healthcare, one of the world’s largest integrated private healthcare groups.
“Liquid biopsy is a game-changer in our endeavor to provide cancer patients with better, value-driven outcomes through precise treatment selections and more affordable care,” said Dr Kelvin Loh, CEO of IHH Healthcare. “Our investment in Lucence will provide IHH patients with better access to this advanced technology.”
SGInnovate, Temasek Holdings subsidiary Heliconia Capital, Lim Kaling, Koh Boon Hwee and others also participated in the funding round.
“This partnership with IHH Healthcare will accelerate our work to achieve early cancer detection and effective cures, and expand access to this much-needed liquid biopsy technology to patients across Asia and the United States,” Dr Tan proclaimed.
Michael Acton Smith