(From left to right: Mr. Tony Cheng, head of commercial, Merck Healthcare HK; Dr. Cadmon Lim, Chief Operating Officer of GemVCare; Dr. Jacky Lio, Chief Medical Officer of Bowtie; Professor Juliana Chan, Chief Executive Officer of ADF)
To echo the Government’s call for promoting Primary Care to prevent diabetes and critical illnesses, GemVCare, a Bio-IT startup by local academics, partners with the Asia Diabetes Foundation (ADF), a charitable organisation governed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Foundation, Bowtie, Hong Kong’s first virtual insurer and Merck Pharmaceuticals (Hong Kong) Limited (Merck), a leading global science and technology company, join hands to offer free genetic testing service to Bowtie selected Volunteer Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) customers for early prevention of diabetes.
Worldwide, over 500 million people have diabetes and 300 million people have prediabetes. Depending on their risk profiles, every year, 3-10% of people with prediabetes may develop diabetes. Currently, more than one million Hong Kong adults have prediabetes and 88% of them may develop diabetes during their lifetime1-3. Once diabetes develops, these people may lose 4-10 years of lives with 2-6 times increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and cancer, especially if diagnosed at young age.
Genetics and lifestyle factors are root causes for diabetes. Compared to a person without family history of diabetes, the risk of diabetes increases by 3 times if one generation is affected and 6 times if more than one generation is affected. At the same time, studies have shown that compared with non-smokers, men who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day have a greater risk of developing diabetes. The reason may be that smoking affects insulin secretion or sensitivity, making the body unable to effectively metabolise or clear blood glucose . Yet quitting smoking, weight control through healthy eating and regular exercise as well as early use of medication, such as metformin, have been proven to delay or prevent the onset of diabetes in people with prediabetes.
In support of the Government’s proposal on “Primary Healthcare Blueprint” and driven by the same vision of “Prevention is better than cure”, GemVCare, ADF, Bowtie and Merck join hands to offer a sustainable solution in diabetes prevention and control for the Hong Kong public. By shifting the emphasis from treatment-oriented, hospital-based structure to a prevention-focused, community-based system, the implementation of a data-driven prediction, prevention and care plan for prediabetes will save lives and money in the long term.
Diabetes can affect people from all walks of life, whether they are young or old, lean or overweight. “GemVCare uses proprietary biogenetic markers and data analytics to predict, prevent and classify diabetes with precision and evidence,” commented Dr. Cadmon Lim, Chief Operating Officer of GemVCare. Current blood tests which measure blood glucose level or glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) only detect diabetes when the disease is already beginning to show up. In people with normal results, these tests cannot predict future risk of diabetes for early decision-making.
GemVCare’s DForesee® is a proprietary technology which combines personal profiles and genetic markers to identify individuals who are at high risk of developing diabetes in next 10 years with 90% correctness. DForesee® utilizes a small amount of oral buccal cells or blood cells to decode one’s unique genetic profile and provides a personalized report to help people make informed decisions on modifying risk factors (such as body weight) and taking medications to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
This detection program aimed at preventing diabetes early is complemented by an on-line education and empowerment program provided by the ADF. By partnering with healthcare professionals and industry, ADF uses an e-platform to share evidence-based information on the latest advances related to prevention of diabetes and chronic diseases, including nutrition, lifestyle, risk assessment, self-management, devices and medications. “Depending on their genetic make-up, some individuals may need technologies including medications to help them prevent or delay onset of diabetes,” commented Professor Juliana Chan, Chief Executive Officer of ADF.
Bowtie's selected VHIS customers will receive email in batches inviting them to take the DForesee® test at Bowtie’s medical clinic, Bowtie & JP Health. The test result will not affect their current insurance coverage, underwriting results or claim eligibility with Bowtie. After obtaining the risk assessment report, ADF's professional team will explain the report to the participants and provide lifestyle advice through an on-line platform.
“Promoting Primary Care is challenging yet necessary. Bowtie is dedicated to building a healthier society through partnerships using evidence-based preventive strategy. By shifting the society from focusing on treating disease to preventing disease, we will avert occurrence of critical illnesses, reduce hospitalizations and make our public healthcare system more sustainable. Most importantly, it will make our citizens more empowered to stay healthy and happy,” said Dr. Jacky Lio, Chief Medical Officer of Bowtie.
“Merck is delighted to be part of this 4-party collaboration to offer a sustainable solution in our common fight against diabetes. By supporting this initiative, we hope to popularise high-tech products that positively impact human life”, remarked by Mr. Tony Cheng, head of commercial, Merck Healthcare HK. Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical company established more than 300 years ago. The company is committed to using scientific data to improve human health especially in advancing diabetes care management that echoes the United Nation sustainability development goal of reducing non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment.
GemVCare was founded in 2014 supported by the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities of the Hong Kong Government Innovation and Technology Commission and based at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. It is the first company that combines proprietary algorithms, state-of-the-art molecular techniques and information technology to offer personalized solutions for prevention, classification and treatment of diabetes. Based on three decades of research, our founders used comprehensive databases to define the genetic causes and subtypes of diabetes and are amongst the first researchers in the world to discover diabetes gene markers specific for Asian people. GemVCare has successfully been granted access to these databases from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and use these technologies to benefit the community. Stay up to date at https://www.gemvcare.com/.