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[Herald Interview] QuantaMatrix seeks October IPO for overseas entry

Local microbial diagnostic solution developer plans to enter US, China, Europe, eyes W85.3b via listing

QuantaMatrix CEO Kwon Sung-hoon speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Aug. 18. (QuantaMatrix)
QuantaMatrix CEO Kwon Sung-hoon speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Aug. 18. (QuantaMatrix)

Amid growing investor interest in the bio and health care industries, a local microbial diagnostic test developer is planning an initial public offering next month.

QuantaMatrix, a spin-off of Seoul National University’s biophotonics and nanoengineering lab, is anticipated to list on the nation’s tech-heavy Kosdaq market. Its market debut is meant to take the lead in global clinical microbiology diagnostics, said Kwon Sung-hoon, chief executive officer of QuantaMatrix, in an interview with The Korea Herald.

The company aims to raise as much as 85.34 billion won ($71.8 million) by going public under the “special listing on promising business model” procedure offered by the Korea Exchange that allows a company’s eligibility for listing to be evaluated based on technological capabilities and growth potential.

The 10-year-old firm developed a rapid antimicrobial susceptibility test for sepsis -- “direct Rapid Antimicrobial Susceptibility Test (dRAST)” -- which allows testing both at reduced cost and at a much faster speed that saves crucial hours in starting treatment.

“Sepsis is a critical condition that drops patients’ survival rates by 7 percent per hour and 9 percent as the disease progresses further. The problem is that treatment decisions take two to three days since existing tests require lengthy laboratory work such as blood cultures, pure culture identification and susceptibility testing,” Kwon said.

“However, dRAST -- a system that detects optimal antibiotics by observing what antibiotics are effective against bacteria in the blood -- provides lab results within 4 to 6 hours. As a result, it decreases testing time significantly by 30-50 hours. The technology can contribute greatly to combating super-bacteria, the biggest threat to mankind.”

The company has been supplying dRAST to Seoul National University Hospital for commercial use since late last year. The commercialized testing system is currently under evaluation at four local general hospitals. Its testing system is set to be commercialized in 10 European nations. The list includes France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The competitiveness of dRAST is in its ability to conduct 15 blood tests at once, Kwon said. QuantaMatrix has geared up its preparation to obtain the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval by 2022, he added.

The firm is offering around 3.22 million shares in the price band of 21,200-26,500 won. The exact share price will be determined through the two-day book building process for institutional investors on Sept. 21-22 before retail investors can apply on Sept. 25 and 28. Mirae Asset Daewoo is underwriting the IPO.

The IPO proceeds will be used to expand staff levels at its office in France, expand overseas business and marketing and ramp up investing in new pipelines to develop solutions for rapid whole blood bacterial identification. The firm also plans to build additional factories ahead of expanding its business in the US and China.

“We are currently at the stage of taking another turn. Through the IPO, we aim to continue our business growth as the most innovative in-vitro diagnostics firm in field of microbiology,” Kwon said. “With the innovative testing platform that helps lowering sepsis patients’ mortality rates, QuantaMatrix will target global markets.”

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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