Japan’s microbiome startup Cykinso gets $2.3M to launch gut health advice service

From the left: Cykinso CEO Yu Sawai, Director of UX Daisuke Ogawara

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Cykinso, who develop and sell “Mykinso” or a test kit for intestinal flora, revealed that it has secured 270 million yen (about $2.3 million US) from the Regional Health Care Industry Support Fund (the GP is comprised of REVIC Capital and AGS Consulting under the jurisdiction of the Regional Economic Revitalization Support Organization; LPs are banks, etc.), among others. The funds secured this time around follow those raised from individual investors (the angel round), a grant from Kanagawa Prefecture for the “Project to Promote the Creation of the Preventive Medicine market,” a grant from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry’s “Project to Encourage the Creation of SMEs and New Business.” Although these are grants, in terms of business stages Cykinso has labeled this the seed round, making their most recent funding essentially a series A round.

Cykinso plans to use the funds secured this round for business development purposes, including using the data collected from the intestinal flora tests to develop a system for offering nutritional guidance.

Cykinso was founded in November of 2014 by Yu Sawai (CEO), previously of a genome research company, along with others. While they are not a so-called university spin-off startup, they are conducting joint research along with RIKEN Innovation Center’s Benno Laboratory and Osaka University’s Research Institute for Microbial Diseases’ Department of Infectious Metagenomics, and in August of 2015 they were granted the title of “RIKEN Certified Venture”.

Mykinso’s Test Kit

In November of 2015 they released the intestinal flora testing service “Mykinso”, a home-testing kit that when mailed in tells people the state of their intestinal bacteria. Following this, they released “Mykinso Pro” for the professional market, that allows medical institutions, etc., to register patient examination data and manage specimens, and in about one year from the start of the project they have acquired intestinal flora data from around 2,000 people through both services. The examination results can be viewed by the user or the user’s doctor in the form of a cloud or paper report.

Cykinso receives permission from users beforehand to use the intestinal flora data as big data with the promise that users remain anonymous, and expects that businesses using this big data will grow considerably in the future. Depending on the scale of the accumulated data, the services to be offered and the business stage will be adjusted accordingly.

  • Phase 1: Sale of the intestinal flora test kit, Begin the reporting service for the test result cloud and paper report
  • Phase 2: Doctors, etc., can use the results to assist in diagnosis, Registered nutritionists can provide advice (Accumulated data on a scale of 2,000 people)
  • Phase 3: Big data is sold to pharmaceutical companies, Pharmaceutical companies use it to develop new drugs (Accumulated data on a scale of tens of thousands of people)

It could say that Cykinso will use the funds from this round to shift their business phase from phase one to phase two.

Mykinso Lab, online vertical media by Cykinso, specializes in intestinal flora-related topics.

In October of this year, the company held an event called “Intestinal Summit” along with dispensing pharmacy big name Aisei Pharmacy (TSE:3170) and leading mobile service provider MTI (TSE:9438) to promote awareness of general consumers’ intestinal flora and services. Additionally, this week they will move offices from the Kanagawa Science Park, where they have resided for the two years since inception, to the Good Morning Building in Shibuya, Tokyo, which incidentally also houses THE BRIDGE X. For Cykinso this signifies the transformation from a purely academic venture into the business domain.

As they specialize in big data related to intestinal flora, there is currently no service that can be classified as a competitor in Japan. American startup uBiome, which Sawai marks as the one to beat, has raised around $27 million US thus far.

In the future, it appears devices installed directly on toilets, as one example, will allow consumers to easily and regularly monitor the state of their intestinal bacteria. A few startups come to mind, such as Tripe W Japan’s DFree and Symax, who monitor the state of a person’s urine and feces to assist in excretory predictions and detection of pre-illnesses. In the coming year, I plan to pay special attention to breakthroughs in healthcare startups.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda