X-ZELL closes oversubscribed Seed+ round
Singapore, October 2020 – Singapore start-up X-ZELL has closed an oversubscribed Seed+ round led by German industrial service group, Deutsche Industrieanlagen (DIAG).
Ranked among the world’s most innovative health technology start-ups, X-ZELL specialises in the detection of early stage cancers from small blood samples using a patented platform technology combining next generation multiplexing with Artificial Intelligence.
Initially capped at US$3 million, the round was extended to US$4 million at the start of 2020 to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the clinical research landscape. It has been backed by a variety of high-profile angel investors from Asia, Europe and the Unites States, as well as Hong Kong-based biopharmaceutical specialist, Essex Bio-Technology.
According to company Founder & CEO, Dr Sebastian Bhakdi, the funds collected will enable X-ZELL to scale up the company’s Research & Development department and expand into new markets beyond Asia – with a special focus on his native country of Germany and central Europe.
“COVID-19 is a sore reminder that preventative healthcare and early disease detection are among the most pressing medical challenges of our time,” he says. “In the oncology space, we believe our technology has the potential to fast-track that paradigm shift. We can save millions of lives by empowering physicians to proactively manage our health instead of just reacting to symptoms.”
X-ZELL’s Seed+ round commenced in mid-2018 and gained significant momentum during the second half of 2019, according to Bhakdi. “2019 was a pivotal year for X-ZELL. It saw the highly anticipated publication of our first clinical data – confirming the vast potential of our cancer detection technology – as well as the opening of our new headquarters in Singapore. Here, we now have the privilege of collaborating with A*ccelerate’s Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub, one of the most influential diagnostics development centres in the world.”
Investors not only value the company’s clinical prowess and rapidly expanding network, but also praise the team’s immense sense of urgency, explains X-ZELL COO, Johannes Hille, who managed the current funding round.
“It’s fair to say that we have achieved more over the past two years than anyone would have thought possible,” he says, pointing to the fact that some 49,000 new cancer diagnoses are delivered every day – the vast majority of them at a late stage.
“That diligence has now paid off – but it doesn’t mean we have time to rest on our laurels. An oversubscribed round is a powerful mandate to keep pushing ahead.”
According to Martin Wiechers, Managing Director at DIAG, X-ZELL’s unique selling point is the ability to reconcile future technologies with existing healthcare infrastructure.
“As we diversify our portfolio, the focus is on businesses that have both a strong product and a strong commercialisation plan,” he explains. “X-ZELL is one of these rare species. They have a technology that is capable of revolutionising cancer diagnostics. But they also understand that innovation must go hand-in-hand with execution to make an impact. At DIAG, we identify with that mindset.”
In line with that, X-ZELL Founder & CEO, Dr Sebastian Bhakdi, says the company’s current focus is firmly on maintaining positive momentum. “I am deeply grateful to our teams in Thailand, Singapore and Europe for keeping up the pace in 2020. A team capable of staying so calm and assertive during the most volatile of times, of not losing focus despite having to re-adjust constantly, is a team capable of changing the world.”
 Galen Growth, 2020;  International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 2018)
X-ZELL’s vision is to save lives by identifying clinically significant cancers early, when there is still time to act and take charge of our health. X-ZELL first made headlines in 2017 when it found a way to routinely locate tumour-associated Circulating Endothelial Cells (tCEC) in a small, 10mL blood sample. Known to be powerful biomarkers for the early detection of aggressive cancers, tCEC were long considered ‘undetectable’ in clinical routine. X-ZELL overcame the impasse by developing a platform technology that is capable of detecting a single tCEC among five billion healthy blood cells and analysing it using Artificial Intelligence – making for an affordable, non-invasive solution with maximum scalability. Less than a year after that breakthrough, X-ZELL was able to present the world’s first tCEC-based blood test for the early detection of clinically significant prostate cancer – X-ZELL™ Prostate. But one cancer is not enough. X-ZELL’s ambition is to make accurate, affordable tCEC screening available to everyone, everywhere – which is why additional tests for common cancers such as breast, ovarian, colon and lung have already gone into pre-development, with more to come. They all feed into the creation of an AI-driven general screening test that will be able to scrutinise our blood for atypical cells and analyse them on-screen – allowing physicians to manage our health proactively instead of just responding to a disease.