This year will see aggressive expansion across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East for Malaysia-based medical informatics company iGene Sdn Bhd.
Taking on Australia and New Zealand first through a partnership announced on Friday, the company is looking at expanding into Abu Dhabi, Indonesia, Thailand and Saudi Arabia, either in Riyadh or Jeddah, this year.
iGene signed a memorandum of collaboration with Melbourne-based big data solution company GCS Agile Australia, with whom the company will launch a network of digital autopsy facilities in Australia.
Under the partnership, both companies will form a joint venture entity, in which iGene will own 49 per cent, and the rest GCS Agile.
Any benefits from the partnership will be shared among the companies, accordingly.
The GCS Agile partnership, iGene founder and chief executive officer Matt A. Chandran said is a leap in many areas that will open up various revenue streams for iGene in the future.
GCS Agile founder and chief executive officer Gerry Carcour said the company essentially commercialises innovation, which iGene has.
The data that iGene’s software can collate can be applied in numerous fields like forensics, crime investigation, medicolegal, medical, education and predictive analysis, he gave examples of.
“We believe that with the amount of data that we can collect from iGene’s technology, we can do some predictive analytics work in that space,” Carcour said, noting that the digital autopsy gathers information from as many as 25,000 sensor points.
GCS Agile is also in engagement with Australian universities for the work on big data it garners.
“We are also working with the government in Victoria, Australia, and have already demonstrated the product to the Premier of Victoria,” he said, adding that an autopilot could be launched soon.
Digital autopsy, Chandran’s brainchild, was designed and developed as an end-to-end software solution application for the advancement of forensic medicine science.
The digital autopsy is a procedure conducted by competent forensic pathologists on a digital body generated using high performance computing, and a unique set of proprietary algorithms to allow the autopsy to be done without cutting into the deceased’s body.
Explaining further, the company said the software is housed in a ‘Digital Autopsy Facility’ (DAF), which covers the whole procedure of crime or death scene investigation, scanning and lifting evidences from a scene of death until a digital autopsy report is produced in full multimedia.
Connecting the nodes
Chandran’s strategy for the company is to tie up with local partners around different regional markets, which will then act as operational nodes for its growth in those regions, and hence form a global network for digital autopsy.
It is now in the midst of finalising a contract with the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Interior, to establish the first DAF in Abu Dhabi.
The company is also in talks of various stages with parties in China, Indonesia, US, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with at least four initiatives maturing.
“We would like to have five solid presence – Kuala Lumpur for Asia-Pacific, London for Europe, Abu Dhabi for Middle East, one more in South America and in the US itself,” Chandran said.
iGene launched its UK network of facilities in 2013, at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum in London, with the new generation forensic ecosystem expected to be commissioned by end of 2016.
Through its wholly-owned subsidiary, iGene London Limited, the company has built, launched and commissioned its first overseas DAF for England at the Sheffiled Medico-Legal Public Mortuary in November 2013.
Another DAF was launched at Bradford Public Mortuary in May 2014 and then Sandwell Valley Crematorium in November 2014.
iGene’s network of facilities in England will be integrated into a common data centre for administration and management purpose, and one of these facilities will serve as the research & development and commercialisation platform for Europe, it said.
iGene’s first facility was set up in Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
Eyes on the US
The company, which wants to revolutionise the autopsy practice to give the deceased and the bereaved families a more dignified process of uncovering the reasons of death, is currently in talks with parties in the US and the UK for further investment to penetrate the US market.
Although it is currently focused on building networks around Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, its long game is to enter US, where forensic science has made global headway.
“In our early phase, we had spent all our time, effort and money getting the right technical people and equipment; and in the second phase was about translating that into market activity in a restricted market, which has been our going into UK. The third phase of our going global, we are seeking partners to enter into (more) markets,” Chandran said.
“We are not yet in the US because we do not have partners there to host us, and in our mind, if and when we go, we have to go in partnership with somebody,” he added, noting that the company has got the ball rolling on its move to US.
He said that iGene is doing the preparatory work, to set the stage right to enter the technologically advanced market. “A little more preparatory work so that once we are on the ground there, the impact is huge. When we get US, we want to be a truly global company.”
Chandran said the company is not short of options for funding, but is looking for strategic investors and partners with a mindset to create change, who can assist the company in setting up its global presence.
“Our next round of investment is also going into people who can help develop the market. We can either hire people, or through partnerships, the latter being the smarter choice, because partners are proven, and they bring capacity,” he noted, adding that iGene is seeking out equity partnerships at this stage in its business, rather than acquisition of beneficial companies.
iGene received MYR7.5 million in funding in 2009 from Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap) which took 15 per cent shareholding in the company.
In 2013, Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) invested MYR70 million in iGene for a 25 per cent stake for the development of iGene’s digital autopsy ecosystem in the UK. This round valued the company at MYR200 million.
Chandran is believed to hold some 58 per cent in the company still, and has said that he would consider downsizing his stake should a strategic partnership or investment warrant it.