South Korean telecoms firm enters digital healthcare market
South Korea's largest telecoms company has announced it is entering the country's digital healthcare market.
KT, formerly known as Korea Telecom, has signed a memorandum of understanding with NGeneBio, a local gene sequencing company. Together they will create personalised products based on gene data analysis.
Additionally KT is planning to work with Kazakhastan-based medical centre Medical Partners Korea to launch an information technology-based epidemic control system. It will launch in Kazakhastan this year and in Russia in 2021.
NGeneBio was founded in 2014 as an inhouse venture from KT. In 2015 it established a molecular laboratory, and the following year received approval to start genetic testing. The company has produced several products including the BRCAaccuTest™ to test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that cause breast and ovarian cancer, and HLAaccuTest™, an in vitro diagnostic medical device that can identify harmful antigens.
The new agreement will enable NGeneBio to make use of KT's AI, big data and cloud solutions. The companies will work together on tailored diet and exercise programmes based on genomic data. Genorhythm is NGeneBio's existing service that analyses fat, blood sugar and blood pressure - it will further develop this platform with KT's capacity for big data analysis.
Genomic medicine is a fast-growing area in South Korea, with the fields of genomic research, genetic testing, precision medicine, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing growing in popularity. Additionally Korea has one of the largest biobanks in the world.
The ongoing Korean Genome Project which began in 2006, is an attempt to collect, analyse and distribute Korean genomic information for use in clinical and ethnographic studies, particularly in cancer research. Data from the first phase of the project was published earlier this year, with information describing 1,094 whole genomes.
On the rise: Doktor.se
1. Doktor.se launches as a digital healthcare platform in Sweden in 2016. The company's focus is on the B2B market, with a mission to help members find, book and get access to healthcare services through telehealth and telephone calls.
2. The company offers healthcare services through its app as well as at bricks and mortar clinics. After raising more than €40 million in a funding round in May 2020 to expand its operations both nationally and overseas, CEO and founder Martin Lindman says there are plans to enter new markets at the beginning of 2021.
3. Belgium becomes the fifth market where Doktor.se provides telemedicine, through Belgium's communications company Proximus Group. It becomes the second most downloaded doctor app in Europe, and over 1.2 million patient consultations are carried out, either through the app or at physical clinics in Sweden. Throughout 2020 it administers over 250,000 COVID-19 antibody tests in Sweden.
4. Doktor.se is the most popular digital healthcare in Sweden, used by approximately one-tenth of the country's population. New funds are raised to offer improved services for mental health and chronic illnesses, and to expand digital services and acquire physical services to integrate into its digital platforms with the aim of creating a hybrid model.
5. The company announces €29.5 million in funding from Chinese technology multinational Tencent Holdings. Doktor.se say the funds will be used to make its global healthcare services more efficient, accessible and affordable.
The platform now employs nurses, doctors and specialist doctors, psychologists, and physiotherapists, and is available across Europe and in Brazil.
6. Over 1.5 million people are currently using healthcare apps developed by Doktor.se, either run by the company or through its SaaS licensing business. There are around 900 people employed by the company, and Doktor.se say that the productivity of medical staff using the platform is up to four times greater than those working in traditional services.