We talked to Robert Stojnic, co-founder of Gene Adviser, a startup based in Cambridge that enables NHS (National Health System), the british health system, to provide access to genetic tests to UK-citizens and people from other countries. They want to spread the british expertise in genetic tests around the world. In UK, there are around 32 labs in a regional system of access, where every lab has common tests, but each one has one main specialty.
The labs in England, for example, will sequence 100.000 genomes for people with rare diseases. The old genetic tests can be compared to blood tests, where a marker would be there or not and this would be the answer for the disease. Nowadays, they are more complex and interpretation is the key, which makes big data and expertise key factors to the success of the diagnosis.The government in the UK has put a lot of money and effort to create this expertise and they want to use it in a bigger proportion to help patients around the world.
For the consumer, the diagnosis period could be reduced from 6 years, the average of rare diseases, to some months with a specialized test.
The company was created by Robert and Jelena Aleksic, both post-doc in Computational Biology, in Cambridge. He works with computer modeling and her work is with rare diseases. For them, the system is created to address common diseases and they want to improve the access to genetic tests and to the diagnosis of rare diseases and more complicated problems. For this, they offer IT services and find patients to use their services.
They launched the company in October and are still exploring the market, looking for partners and ways to improve access in different regions, like Eastern Europe and Brazil. For them, those labs have a lot of potential to make patients’ lives better.
Asked about their business model, Robert said they will work with a comission fee. The lab will offer them a percentage of each patient. This is important, because doctors don’t know where those tests are made and patients don’t know which tests they can have. They are not a consumer company, different to 23andme, for example, the consumer can not just apply for a test. A doctor needs to recommend it and their tests can be scheduled according to the specialty needed.
They were accepted in two programs. The first one is an incubator, Social Incubator East, that is dedicated to support social ventures to grow. The programme runs over a 12 month period providing a range of tailored support specifically focusing on Business Advice, Connections, Finance and Training. In this incubator, 25 startups are having their support.
The second accelerator is Accelerate Cambridge, which is the official one for the university and it is more business oriented. This one is not focused on social ventures, they have, approx. 30 startups in all kinds of sectors.
Their idea is organic growth until certain point, then, after that, they intend to look for investment, so they can spread the service and provide more access to patients who need this kind of service.