Status: Mitigation

Acquirer: iCarbonX (China)

Acquired: PatientsLikeMe Inc (US)

Value: US$100 million

Industry: Healthcare

In January 2017, PatientsLikeMe Inc, a Massachusetts healthcare internet start-up that allows patients to connect and share information to further learning about diseases, received an approximate $100 million investment from iCarbonX, a digital healthcare startup founded by genomic scientist Jun Wang and reportedly backed by Chinese giant Tencent. (See PatientsLikeMe website, About web page, visited June 25, 2019; MobiHealthNews.com, PatientsLikeMe secures $100M, partners with health data company iCarbonX, Jan. 5, 2017; but see Yahoo News, After forced sale, PatientsLikeMe founder frets that U.S. policy could chill collaboration in biotech, May 20, 2019, noting “iCarbonX and Invus Group, a New York firm, invested $100 million in PatientsLikeMe”.) PatientsLikeMe has been “connecting patient-reported information with biological data to find new clues about what makes us sick or healthy, and what it means to thrive,” and the “investment by iCarbonX in 2017 . . . accelerate[d] this work through [PatientsLikeMe’s] DigitalMe Ignite study.” (PatientsLikeMe website, About web page, visited June 25, 2019.) An industry report, citing a company press release, stated that “[a]s part of the deal, iCarbonX, which is backed by Chinese investment powerhouse TenCent, provided multi-omics characterization services to the company.” (BioSpace.com, White House Forces PatientsLikeMe to Dump Current Chinese Majority Owner and Find New Investor, Apr. 5, 2019.)

According to news reports in April 2019, the investment attracted the attention of CFIUS in 2018, when “PatientsLikeMe started receiving notifications from CFIUS . . .” (CNBC, The Trump administration is forcing this health start-up that took Chinese money into a fire sale, Apr. 4, 2019.) CNBC reported in April that “CFIUS is now forcing a divestiture by iCarbonX, meaning PatientsLikeMe has to find a buyer, according to several people with knowledge of the matter. (Id.; see also STAT News, U.S. forces health company to ditch Chinese investor, in sign of heightened concern over foreign influence, Apr. 4, 2019.) Shortly after, during an industry event, the co-founder of PatientsLikeMe was reported as commenting that “the only solution was for iCarbonX to sell” its PatientsLikeMe holding, and that PatientsLikeMe was “not even considering companies that are not based in the U.S., because it would drag out the process too much.” (STAT News, After forced sale, PatientsLikeMe founder frets that U.S. policy could chill collaboration in biotech, May 20, 2019, quotations are from article and are not attributed to co-founder.) A subsequent report indicated that UnitedHealth Group has acquired the divested stake in PatientsLikeMe, (see CNBC, UnitedHealth buys PatientsLikeMe, which faced Trump administration scrutiny over Chinese investor, June 24, 2019), and PatientsLikeMe stated that “[a]s of June 19, 2019 we became part of UnitedHealth Group’s Research and Development unit.” (PatientsLikeMe website, About web page, visited June 25, 2019.)