A selection of startups that are innovating and doing things differently in the field of genomics.
The genomic revolution
We have identified one of the most promising genetics worldwide startups, Made of Genes, considered as “Netflix of Genomics”. This Spain-based company has created the first service on the market that integrates all-in-one personal genomics.
An interview with Miquel Bru, co-founder of Made of Genes.
NTT DATA: Hello, Miquel. Thank you for joining us in the Startup Radar Podcast.
Let’s think throwback to 2015. When was the most difficult moment since you created the company and which was the happiest?
M: We’ve been lucky. We finished our MBA in ESADE in January 2015 and we founded the company in January 2015. We decided to do it, but we knew that we had a long way. We are talking about a high-computing platform, so it’s not easy to develop all the infrastructure that we have behind us. We needed funding, so we started to talk with some accelerators in Spain and we were accepted in Wayra. The first day, they put in a room fifteen consultants and told us to do a pitch of our company. That was the hardest part, because that day we realized that this was not going to be easy. And we learned from scratch, from the real beginning. So when you say “man, five years later we’re here, look at the place that we are at; we started two guys and now we are twenty two and we are still dreaming on that, we are still working for that dream”, that is the happiest moment for sure.
N: Genomics is something considered as rocket science for many of us. How do you think Made of Genes is really working to change this paradigm and to show people that this is something that you can have?
M: When I started this project with my partner, the mission was to make precision medicine a reality. The problem is about awareness, the problem is not about the high technology, it’s already there. So for me there are three things: first, to put the right technology, secondly, to make it efficient and the third part is about security and privacy. So if we have the solutions for these three steps, we can make precision medicine arrive to everyone, and this is our goal.
e: How difficult or easy has it been to transfer you value proposition to patients? How do you focus your communication in order to be something that everybody can understand?
M: It has been really difficult. We started as a B2C approach and then we moved to pure technology providers, and now we are moving to B2B2C. We always want to go with the channel, with insurance companies, with private hospitals, because we believe that we must collaborate, this is like a net. We the starting point of a new way of taking care of yourself, what we call the “personalized health”. But we need the doctors, we need the nurses, we need the physiotherapists, the nutritionists and we need to collaborate together. This is the kind of value that we think that we must put on the table to get to the final consumer, to make a real difference.
N: Do you think patients’ thoughts regarding data is changing or do you think it’s still a dilemma?
M: I used to think that was a big dilemma for everyone to share but then you realize that we are really used to share. The thing is, first if you know it or you don’t know it, and secondly if you agree or you don’t agree. That’s why one of the things that we’ve developed is based on Blockchain technology. It’s about an electronical informed consent channel, because we believe in the reuse, and we believe in research, the only thing is that we don’t want to do it without your permission. We have an IP that we encrypt or the data in a way that even we, even Made of Genes, cannot access to our database. We always need to ask to our data owners, to our “genome owners”. So at the end, if we have the technology to make it right and we just ask to you, I think people are really agree to share data.
N: How do you differentiate from your competitors? How are you doing things in a different way?
M: I think that we always have been innovative on the way. I think that we are the firsts to talk about storing the data, we are the firsts to think, to talk about “we don’t have to go for one part of the genome, let’s go for the whole genome and reuse it”, we are the firsts to talk about privacy-first policy, and now we are the firsts that we are saying “genomics is not everything”. With just the part of the genetics, we cannot know enough. So that’s why now we are launching our new project that is what we call “personalized health”. We’ve been training an algorithm and a machine-learning technology that aggregates data about the genetics and all the biochemical markers to give you personalized recommendations.
N: In the regulation field, that this is something important, have you experienced barriers when presenting your project, your technology to some government offices or to other companies?
M: The problem is if you develop a technology, a platform, without thinking about privacy, but if you, from the beginning, start to develop all your technology thinking about all these kinds of issues, then it’s really easy. That is the only thing that we had to do, to develop a technology that can be deployed in different servers, not a fixed technology that can be just in our own data servers. So, if you take in account that every country has different regulations, you can use different platforms and you can deploy your technology in different platforms, so you can adapt really easy the technology to the regulations about privacy, how you can share, how not.
N: Why do you think companies invest in Made of Genes?
M: I think that investors, business angels, invest on you for the team. You can have an idea, but ideas are going to change, so what makes the difference is the implementation of the idea. What you need is a team that can implement whatever comes and has the ability of adaptation. Adaptation is the key factor of everything.
N: And what are the risks that you think a potential investor would see in your company?
M: One of the biggest risks that everyone puts in our table is that precision medicine and genomics is going to stay. The big question is if we are earlier or is the right time. I always answer that it’s the moment and we are late, also. Because what people don’t realize is that genomics is now in our life already. Implementing this and implementing in the private sector, depending on the market, is a risk factor, but the startup is about to risk, to risk some part in order to get something that is vision and we want to be there the firsts. If we wait for the wave, then we are not going to be there.
N: Are you focused more into massive markets or do you have a different strategy for your go-to market goal?
M: There are two different paths: quality or quantity. I think that now is the moment to go for the quality not for the quantity, because quantity will come for sure. Quantity is business, and our goal is not to do a big business; our goal is to find a business that can be replicated and can be escalated. The main goal for a startup, is to find the quality, to focus on your technology, your value proposition, to demonstrate that it’s strong and to demonstrate that that can be scalable.
N: In massive markets, are you finding a lot of barriers?
M: In genetics massive markets there is just one that is the United States. You have the famous one, 23andMe and there are others. It’s the place where you can find more competitors and you can find more people that is doing similar things. That is a good thing, because you have someone to compare with, so the market is more prepared to this kind of product, that is a really good thing, but also, you have to fight a little bit more with your place on the market. So that’s why we are now at this moment avoiding this kind of markets; we prefer to go other markets that are also huge, Middle East, Latin America, and Europe.
N: Let’s move to the future. Are you expecting to be a company to be acquired or would you like to become the “Netflix of Genomics”?
M: We wanted to be the “Netflix of Genomics” and still want to. I think that is something that will come, depending on how is going the future, depending on how are going the projects, depending on a lot of factors and now I cannot evaluate it. But we’ll see, both paths can be okay. If we start to play the game of the investors, we are playing the game of the investors, but maybe we can also be the next Netflix of Genomics, this is something that will come to the table in the right moment.
N: And last, but not least, how do you envision genomics future?
M: The key thing will be that we are not going to talk to genomics anymore, because it’s going to be a part of health. We will believe and will think that genomics is part of our life and part of routinary tests.
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