Sequoia Funded MedGenome aims to become a leader in the Molecular Biology based diagnostics space. To achieve this, it is planning to introduce new platforms, add tests and improve awareness…
In September this year, MedGenome, a prominent genomics research and diagnostics company, raised US $30 million Series C funds from Sequoia India and Sofina s.a., with participation from Zodius Capital; Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder and former CEO of Infosys; and Lakshmi Narayanan, former CEO of Cognizant. Set up by Sam Santosh, MedGenome was initially funded with his personal funds until he raised Series A funding of US $4 million from investors led by Emerge Ventures. With the first round of funding in 2013, MedGenome shifted its headquarters to Bengaluru, where it set up a Next Generation Sequencing lab. “It is the only lab in the country to possess Next-Generation sequencing technology platforms, such as Illumina’s Hiseq X 10, 4000 and 2500. It has also earned the distinction of being the highest throughput NGS lab in South- East Asia,” says a proud Santosh.
In 2015, the company raised Series B funding to the tune of US $20 million led by Sequoia Capital and has since then expanded its presence in the South Asian markets and has also set up a CLIA / CAP certified lab in the U.S.
The recently raised funds will be used to increase the development of the MedGenome’s affordable diagnostics tests and will also be used to expand the market penetration by increasing the customer awareness on the importance of genetic tests. The company is also expanding its research services offering in the Western markets.
Sam’s Journey towards Genomics
Sam Santosh is passionate about science and technology and believes that harnessing the power of science is critical to innovation and wealth creation. With this belief he set out on his entrepreneurial venture in 1992 with California Software Limited which grew well to become a global player with over 1200 employees in 8 countries. “Just as technology was the key driver of business in the 20th century, I am certain that science will directly drive economic development as well as social and environmental well-being in the 21st century,” says he. It is this belief that made his shift from Software Services where he spent the first 20 years to a future that blends science and technology with business.
“During 2008-2009, genome sequencing was beginning to catch on in the U.S..I strongly think that genomics could have more of an impact than computing, and that is the thought that compelled me to start SciGenome Inc,” recalls he. In 2010, he set up SciGenom in Kerala to provide genomics services and offerings across various sectors including human, agriculture, microbial, and animals. With the growing potential of genomic services for enabling precision medicine SciGenom spun off its human genomics division MedGenome into an independent entity in 2013. “Through MedGenome I felt that we would able to create a revolution in India in the field of medical diagnostics,” says Santosh.
The company’s mission is to improve global health by decoding the genetic information contained in an individual’s genome.
The Growth Path
The company’s mission is to improve global health by decoding the genetic information contained in an individual’s genome. With this plan in place, the company has taken long strides in the right direction and has been growing constantly since its inception. It currently has a workforce of 350 people. “We recruit people with sequencing skills and genomics background for our lab related roles and highly qualified It professionals with combination depth in bioinformatics and exposure to biology for our bioinformatics roles,” says Santosh.
The company’s comprehensive range of genetic testing across various disease areas provides useful insights to clinicians for better diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases. It offers Next-Generation Sequencing based genomic solutions in cancer immunotherapy. It has unique access to genomics data with clinical and phenotypic data that provides insights into complex diseases at the genetic and molecular level and facilitates research in personalised health care.
To name a few achievements: MedGenome is also the only genomics firm to conduct a very accurate non-invasive prenatal test in a facility in India to predict the risk of chromosomal disorders in foetus. It has also launched genetic carrier screening test to screen for diseases and genetic variations that are specific to Indian population and has also launched India’s first validated liquid biopsy screening test, Oncotrack, for monitoring cancer treatment.
Awareness – biggest challenge
In the initial days, the company’s biggest challenge was to create awareness among healthcare providers. It held symposiums and mini-symposiums for clinicians and researchers in various cities on a regular basis and also had conferences trying to get its message across to the target audience. While this is an ongoing process, affordability was another concern. However, as clinicians began understanding the benefits of genetic tests, in the long run, they started adopting it faster. “Interestingly, the other challenge was rapid technology advancement and our company is committed to investing in these latest advancements to provide the best offerings to our patients,” says Santosh.
Talking about customer acquisition, Santosh says, “The clinicians are our customers and our entire focus is to create awareness on the potential of genetic testing.” For this, the company has taken numerous initiatives like organising CME’s, symposiums, round tables and meetings. It also has a sales force of about 100 people who are spread across the country and are constantly interacting with the doctors on the same.
Scaling up strategy
The company’s larger goal is to become a leader in the Molecular Biology based diagnostics space. The company is working towards it by introducing new platforms such as Micro Array, FISH and Flow Cytometry and also by adding important tests in its portfolio such as liquid biopsy, High Resolution HLA typing, Carrier Screening etc. This apart, it is aggressively working in the field to make the doctor fraternity aware of the range and utility of its diagnostic solutions. Currently, it offers over 400 genetic tests across all key disease areas and has a network of more than 400 hospitals for diagnostics and 10 plus research collaborators across the country. “Knowing the tremendous potential of our portfolio in reducing burden of disease, we have started offering them in nearby countries and have started getting good traction, “ says Santosh.
The company’s revenue has also doubled to US $16.5 million in 2016-17. “After having achieved our initial success, we are now on the path of moving towards handling bigger and more complex problems like role of genetics in response to drugs and predicting adverse events; and associated complications at an early stage; identifying the disease sub-types; segmentation of patients based on their genetic profile for clinical trials; capturing individual’s physiology parameters and interactions with environment through wearable devices and environmental sensors through smart phones,” says Santosh All these problems require significant advancements in many technologies, both for measuring the accurate data and for analyzing such data for better modelling and prediction of human health. The company aims to explore collaborations as well as develop AI/ML technologies in-house specially for analyzing such multi-modal data and create products/tools for improving overall human health.
“We are creating the road for genetic testing in India. There aren’t many people who have made the right investments in this domain. The market is huge and big enough to support a large number of players and in fact, more players are needed to develop the market,” says Santosh on a concluding note.
Founder: Sam Santosh
Funding: In September 2017, the company raised US $30 million Series C funds from Sequoia India and Sofina s.a., with participation from Zodius Capital; Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder and former CEO of Infosys; and Lakshmi Narayanan, former CEO of Cognizant. Set up by Sam Santosh. In 2015, the company raised Series B funding to the tune of US $20 million led by Sequoia Capital and has since then expanded its presence in the South Asian markets and has also set up a CLIA / CAP certified lab in the U.S. Raised Series A funding of US $4 million from investors led by Emerge Ventures in 2013.
Profile: MedGenome Inc. is a genomics-based diagnostics and research company delivering the health care by decoding genetic information contained in an individual’s genome. Its mission is to improve global health by developing deep insights into diseases at the genetic and molecular level. Its research solutions apply genomics technologies, bioinformatics, computing, and big data analytics to the genetically diverse and large South Asian population to understand the genetic basis of cancer, metabolic disorders, eye disorders and other rare diseases. The company also addresses important research questions in hereditary diseases, cardiovascular complications and neurological disorders.