How Danny Yeung’s Project Screen Is Taking On COVID-19
Danny Yeung, the founder and CEO of Prenetics
*—a global leader in digital health and genetic testing—isn’t taking the COVID-19 crisis quietly. Through the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, CircleDNA, Danny launched Project Screen
: a non-profit initiative providing Hong Kong with safe and effective COVID-19 home testing kits. The initiative is backed by philanthropic and operational support from a consortium of industry leaders, including Prudential Hong Kong, Xcelom, Mason Supreme Healthcare, hpa SOCIAL, Beyond Ventures and Pickupp. The initiative was launched in April and the home testing kits are being produced in the company’s own internationally-accredited laboratory. The ultimate goal of Project Screen by Circle is to draw on local innovation to give back to the company’s home in Hong Kong and make COVID-19 testing there profoundly more accessible.
Danny is interviewed here
by Edith Yeung, the founder of FoundersHK and General Partner at Race Capital. Edith frequently speaks on China and Silicon Valley technology and she has invested in over 50 startups.
This excerpt of Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
: How did Project Screen first begin?
: We launched this non-profit initiative on April 14, and it was aimed to increase the testing capacity of COVID-19 here in Hong Kong. It began when we started understanding more and more about what was happening in Hong Kong with the spread of the virus and what the situation was. There were a lot of people approaching me and asking if there was a safe and efficient way to get COVID-19 testing done.
: Why did you want to focus on producing testing kits that could be done from home?
: A lot of the people who first approached me didn’t want to go to the hospital for the test because they didn’t want to go outside. Even though the test is free at a public hospital, the people I’d spoken with feared spreading the infection within the community. And at private hospitals, the test is expensive and costs anywhere between USD$400-600. When I started looking at these different scenarios, I thought Prenetics could use its fully-operating ISO 15189 accredited laboratory and come up with a solution. Even though we hadn’t done COVID-19 testing in the past, we started talking among our peers in terms of mobilizing our existing team to make testing easier. We talked to a bunch of different companies and at the end we had eight join us in this project to increase Hong Kong’s testing capacity.
: What did you focus on to make the test both safe and effective?
: At the core, what we’re doing is offering transparent, non-profit COVID-19 testing that can be done at home. We’re using a real-time PCR standard of testing—basically, this is a laboratory test the user sends in by mail and the results come back in 24 hours. If it’s positive, we help connect that person with a doctor or healthcare professional to guide them through the results. Right now, we’ve secured 100,000 testing kits for Hong Kong. The kit itself is about USD$125 and healthcare workers in the city are eligible for subsidies. To make the kit safe, we use a system of three-layer protection. The saliva that’s deposited into the kit is sealed within three different layers and it is collected by a trained professional.
: Would you consider Project Circle to have been successful so far?
: The launch has been really successful. We’ve been covered by CNBC and lots of major local media. I’m immensely proud of the team that has worked on this. It took them roughly three weeks to develop. We’ve also had great collaboration making the test kit—a lot of organizations came together, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Mason Supreme Healthcare, big companies like Prudential and startups including Pickupp*. And for now, we’re not working outside of Hong Kong. This is our home base, and I really wanted to do something for the city before we potentially look elsewhere.
*NOTE: Prenetics and Pickupp are the portfolio companies of Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund.