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Rhea receives another $10 million in funding led by Thiel

Fertility issues remain a pressing concern around the world – with birth rates falling in many countries and infertility rates (i.e. the complete inability to conceive) rising.

Given the emotional struggles people face when dealing with infertility, it’s no surprise that the opportunity is so large. But just as important, the industry remains largely fragmented and disjointed.

Rhea, a reproductive health services provider based in Singapore and New York, aims to address this challenge by connecting global value chains and leveraging technology.

Rhea said Thursday it has raised $10 million to continue expanding its services. Previous backer Thiel Capital led the round, with participation from LifeX Ventures, Blue Lion Global and FJ Labs.

With the new funding, Rhea plans to acquire additional clinics in 2024, expand services in new markets, and grow its team of reproductive health professionals to establish a high-quality standard for fertility care around the world. Rhea currently has more than 380 employees in 12 markets.

This latest funding follows an initial $20 million round in 2023 and the acquisition of Embryonics, an Israel-based startup that has built AI-based IVF software solutions, earlier this year.

The startup also today announced the launch of Rhea, an end-to-end reproductive health service that connects prospective families in Asia with complementary businesses in North America and Europe.

Rhea’s ecosystem is comprised of GenPrime, a global network of owned and partner clinics; Rhea Labs, an integrated technology platform that leverages data to accelerate time to market and integrates feedback from quality products to improve patient outcomes; and a range of fertility partners, including Moom Health, Elix Healing and Madam Partum, to provide a more comprehensive range of reproductive health services.

Rhea has integrated Embryonics’ AI-driven diagnostic tools into its product development pipeline and exclusive regional distribution rights with leading medical partners. Rhea Labs is also developing a global gamete exchange company, RheaX, which develops innovative solutions to improve the gamete matching and transfer process. A partnership with Baylor College of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at the Texas Medical Center will help develop this exchange.

Rhea CEO Margaret Wang told TechCrunch that Rhea was originally incubated by Recharge Capital in response to the growing trend of women and families around the world wanting more flexibility and choice in family planning. Recharge Capital founding partner Lorin Gu founded Rhea, and Wang joined Recharge as an advisor in January 2023 and took over as CEO of Rhea in September.

GenPrime was initially planned to consist of a few clinics in Southeast Asia. However, based on their own fertility experiences, the members of the company wanted to build a company that would not only provide a clinical network (GenPrime) but also a full suite of health services on medical devices, insights, and platforms.

Mr Wang said: “The traditional approach is highly siloed and reliant on third-party players – we are innovating around integration, connecting different parts of the value chain together, combining not only a premium brick-and-mortar clinic experience but also the application of technology.”

A recent report shows that global birth rates have fallen by half over the past 70 years, with more than half of countries having birth rates below replacement level. (Here are some quick stats: South Korea has the world’s lowest birth rate, Singapore’s birth rate fell below 1.0 last year, and China, the region’s largest market, saw its population fall for the second year in a row.

Professor Wang said: “The rapid decline in fertility rates around the world is a sign of an impending population decline, with its impact particularly affecting Asian countries.”

In addition, each country has its own regulations, so meeting specific requirements during the fertility process can be very difficult. For example, China’s National Health Commission prohibits single women from using assisted reproductive technology (ART), including egg freezing. In China, only married heterosexual couples can enjoy this service. As a result, Ms. Wang pointed out that many Chinese patients need to cross the AIPAC region to receive fertility services. In Singapore, elective egg freezing for women aged 21 to 37 will not be legal until July 2023.

Rhea’s platform connects prospective families across Asia who are facing various reproductive health regulatory challenges. Wang explains that despite the abundance of new options, researching, gathering information, and making informed decisions remains a daunting challenge due to the emotional and vulnerable nature of the experience.

“In terms of clinic networks, we look at companies like CCRM and Spring Fertility, which are also patient-first, and of course IVI RMA and EuginGroup, which have scale advantages,” said Wang when asked about his peers in the industry. “But these companies are usually located in Europe and the United States. In Asia, these groups are much smaller, either in a single country (taking single-country risk) or in micro-regions. But none of them think about the end-to-end ecosystem, the global first, and the way we develop and integrate technology and devices. Rhea is still different because it is the first Asia-centric comprehensive ecosystem for prospective families.”

The company is currently in a growth phase, building on the assets it acquired last year and expanding its integrated model to cover a wider customer base. For example, Rhea acquired a medical tourism company that specializes in meeting the demand for outbound fertility services in China.

“This company would normally refer patients to partner clinics, but by joining our company, we can now direct demand to clinics we own, know and trust in the quality of the experience. Overall business margins have improved because now we own not only one part of the experience (lead referral or personal service), but the entire patient journey,” Wang said.

The company makes money through its clinic services, generates sales leads for partner clinics and companies, and has exclusive distribution or development rights for technology and medical devices.

To provide an integrated service ecosystem, Rhea has brought in a panel of senior advisors, including Dr. Milton Leong, Hong Kong IVF pioneer and founding president of the Hong Kong Society of Reproductive Medicine, Cynthia Hudson, vice president of clinical strategy at TMRW Life Sciences, Dr. Javaid I. Sheikh, dean of Weill Cornell Medical College Qatar, Dr. Michael Coburn, professor and chair of the Department of Urology at Baylor College of Medicine, Bea Camacho, director of Southeast Asia at IDEO, and Weylin Liew, co-founder of Fertility Support SG and global sustainable portfolio manager and head of active engagement at Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC.

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