Why Asia? Q and A with Julien de Salaberry of Galen Growth

In Health Tech by Lisa Cole

Julien de Salaberry is Galen Growth’s Champion for Scaling Health Tech for an Entire Continent


By Mary Kurek, Publisher and Editor, The Introducer

Julien de Salaberry is the CEO and founder of Galen Growth Asia (GGA) headquartered in Singapore. This thought leader and digital-health advocate calls himself a

“healthcare change catalyst and evangelist who challenges the status quo in healthcare whilst understanding the world in which healthcare providers and organizations function.”

With over 15 years of experience in healthcare with leading brands including Eli Lilly, Boston Scientific, Baxter, GSK, and Merck & Co., Julien has a deep understanding of organic and inorganic growth in healthcare in both developed and emerging markets. He has extensive experience all over Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in venture investments and startup advisory environments. He has created a fund for research and innovation collaboration with cancer as the focus, and now leads GGA, research, analytics, advisory firm (and serious collaboration builder) dedicated to transforming the standard of healthcare in Asia Pacific (AP) through nurturing innovation.

I asked Julien to respond to some questions relevant to GGA’s role to help determine the value of HealthTech and get his perspective on where startups are making a difference. But, first, I felt it key to ask the man passionate about disrupting and improving the HealthTech landscape (and, who clearly isn’t a native to Singapore),


The Marquee HealthTech Startups Perspective
Moderator:  Amit Munjal, MS (Finance), MBA, CFA Founder & CEO, Doctor Insta – India
Panelists:  Aga Manhao MBA (Finance) HomeStay – Australia, Sylvana Q. Sinha, Praava Health – Bangladesh, Yasuro Koizumi FiNC Technologies – Japan, Jonathan Sudharta Halodoc – Indonesia

why Asia?

Insightful responses follow.

Q:  Julien, what was it about Asia that you felt needed or deserved attention in the HealthTech space?

A: “AP is home to half of the world’s population, a growing middle class and holds so much opportunity for us all.” (Barak Obama, President of the USA)

  • Sizeable disease burden: According to the World Health Organization, 55% of all deaths in the region are due to noncommunicable diseases. Immature healthcare infrastructure – opportunity to leapfrog through technology and innovative business models.
  • Strong pipeline of very promising local and regional innovation.
  • Fast growing middle class with a high propensity to consume online.
  • The unprecedented opportunity to improve health outcomes at all levels of income across the region through technology.
  • Insufficient engagement from corporations, investors and governments. This reality was the principle trigger to establish GGA with the mandate to be the ecosystem catalyst/builder.

Q:  In the 3 years of GGA’s existence, what are some measurable highlights that show you are meeting your mission to transform the standard of healthcare in Asia?

A: We have witnessed, assisted, and brokered a growing number of commercial partnerships between HealthTech (aka digital health) ventures and corporates and between startups.

  • See Novartis press release
  • 2018 was a record-breaking year closing at US$ 6.3B, doubling 2016 and positioning Asia Pac’s ecosystem as the second largest by value in the world, only slightly behind the USA.
  • The creation of the HealthTech Council is also a great testament to the realization of our mission. The HealthTech Council is a platform for innovation leaders from all sectors to co-build and enable the future of healthcare in a real think-tank for Fortune 500 companies and startups!  GGA has staged and hosted the only dedicated HealthTech Summit in the region for the past 3 years now. Each year, the breadth and depth of engagement from all relevant stakeholders increases in terms of quality of debate and participation of decision makers.



Fireside Chat With WeDoctor, Jeff Chen and Julien de Salaberry.  Exploring how WeDoctor intends to revolutionize China’s overburdened public healthcare market, the impact it will have on the entire value chain, what it represents for the pharma industry, and where investors should pay attention in a growing contingent of tech giants hoping to get their share of the digital health opportunities in China.  Chinese online healthcare solutions platform WeDoctor, backed by tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, raised $500 million from several investors last May, valuing the firm at $5.5 billion ahead of a listing this year.


Q:  Where are you already seeing the most ROI in HealthTech in Asia?

A: Probably too early to discuss ROI but the most prominent top 50 HealthTech ventures are transforming the delivery of healthcare in Asia Pac. A few data points:

  • Venture value propositions such as Medical Diagnostics and Health Management Solutions have experienced significant momentum from investors.
  • Halodoc, an Indonesian startup, also the winner of the GGA 2018 Most Innovative Asia Pac HealthTech Startup can fulfill a patient’s prescription across many of the major cities of Indonesia in less than an hour. For those who have experienced JKT traffic, this is no mean feat!
  • Airdoc, a Chinese startup, focused on diabetes diagnosis, founded in 2015, has already completed the screening of over one million individuals.

Q:  How is the environment for scalability for startups in Asia?  What are the challenges? 

A: Over the past 5 years, the ecosystem has become increasingly positive enabling innovators to scale faster. Many innovators are developing solutions to address health system pain points.

Corporate Engagement:

  • Mundipharma has partnered with Biofourmis, a Singaporean HealthTech startup and the winner of the GGA 2017 Most Innovative Asia Pac HT Startup, to revolutionize pain management. By leveraging Biofourmis’ biovitals™ analytics engine, painfocus™ uses advanced machine learning to calculate the presence and severity of pain, enabling clinicians to personalize treatment.
  • Roche has announced its partnership with the Indian digital health company Wellthy Therapeutics to offer users of the Accu-Chek Active system, an innovative artificial intelligence-based digital diabetes coaching solution.

Challenges include:

  • Need for more savvy investors. Many investors across the region are multi-disciplinary and so are not experts. They tend to shy away from clinically complex solutions which will require the eventual purview of regulators.
  • Need more corporations from all industries to build commercial partnerships to co-build solutions that aim to improve health outcomes and/or solve a pain point. Too many have entered the digital health arena in order to facilitate additional sales of their existing products.

Q:  What more is needed to widen the embrace of digitalization of healthcare in Asia?

A: Leadership: less PR and marketing, and more tangible execution.

  • Akin to China’s approach, other governments in the region need to define clear guidelines, policies, and eventually regulations for HealthTech. A good example would be Singapore’s healthcare regulatory sandbox for telemedicine.
  • Corporations, particularly healthcare incumbents and insurers need to recognize the strategic imperative that HealthTech represents and accelerate the execution of their strategies. The patient journey is becoming increasingly an online one which is disrupting existing business models.
  • Greater adoption of solutions by healthcare professionals.




Opening the HealthTech Summit: Gavin Teo, General Partner at B Capital Group


Q: What would you say is the real value of HealthTech?

A: Democratization of healthcare – increased access and affordability for all, or at least many, many more.

  • Ping An Good Doctor showcases AI-powered, unstaffed clinics. The system would also include a smart medicine cabinet that could dispense more than 100 medications.
  • Re-engineering a healthcare value chain (from drug discovery to chronic disease management) which has become unaffordable.
  • Transforming primary care delivery, including reducing the patient load in hospitals.
  • Growing patient empowerment/ownership for their health.

Call to Action: If you are a healthcare solution provider or a startup in HealthTech, there’s plenty of useful information in this article that’s relevant regardless of the continent. I’d also advise taking note of the names of companies he’s mentioned because if Julien de Salaberry thinks they are special, you should hop over to Linkedin, find them, and engage.  Consider collaborations. If you are in Asia Pac, checking out GGA’s HealthTech Summit would be a smart move. Let the networking begin!