The genomic analysis is presented as one of the most important evolutions in healthcare of the next century, but there are still a few skeptics that question this field. How can we interpret the information contained in our genome? How can healthcare professionals deal with the extensive volume of data that this process generates? How can patients have this extremely sensible informationat their disposition without compromising their privacy? In this interview with Oscar Flores, CEO of Barcelona startup Genomcore, he explains how his team is creating the answers to these important questions.
1. What is Genomcore and what is the main problem that they solve? What services does Genomcore offer?
Genomcore’s objective is to create a logistical, legal and technological frame necessary so that each person can access securely the information stored in their DNA, always maintaining total control over this information, without deceit and fine print.
In a few months we will launch our personal sequencing service, where the client can obtain his genome and his or hers children’s genome to access a portfolio of diverse prevention services, personalized medicine or nutrigenomics, among others. The healthcare professionals will find Genomcore DNA technology a secure, scalable and efficient channel within a reasonable price to offer personalized and innovative products and services to our clients.
2. What is the difference between Genomcore and other companies that offer genetic analysis services to the final consumer?
There are various genome analysis services in the market that base themselves in partial genotyping with DNA microchips, a low cost technology that allows one to analyze a determined subset of markers at a low resolution. In our experience, these technologies limit the reach of the DNA analysis and do not give a complete view of the patient’s genome. In Genomcore we offer a complete sequencing of our clients genome, a better and more complete wager of the future.
3. The human genome contains about 3,500,000,000 letters, more than 500 gigabytes of information. How will you store all this information?
Without a doubt this is the biggest challenge of genomics of the future: the management of huge volumes of information. This is a problem that is far from the medical know-how.
Taking on this problem requires a multidisciplinary approximation. I myself am an Informatics Engineer and Doctor in Biomedicine. For six years I was a computer biologist researcher in the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and in the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). Genomcore’s team is made up of ex-researchers of centers of excellence such as the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genomico (CNAG) or the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG), among others. Without a doubt we need to understand the underlying biologic problem, but at the same time we should create tools, platforms and channels that allow the computational analysis for this huge amount of data in an efficient manner.
4. The information contained in our genes is a delicate matter. How will Genomcore protect this information and guarantee the privacy of their customers?
Various genome analysis services ask the client to lease their data for research purposes and this could lead to an unnoticed and legally consented violation of client’s privacy. In fact, there are notorious cases where a company sold genetic information about its clients to third-parties such as pharmaceutical companies, without the explicit consent of the client. We believe that the solution to this problem is founded on a basic principle: the information of our customer’s DNA must always be property of the customer itself, and we are here to help customers and professionals to interpret this information in an informed and responsible way.
5. What are your biggest challenges starting today and how do you expect to overcome them?
What Genomcore offers the world is not only a biomedical revolution, but a social one too. “The democratization of the genome”, as some call it. To create such a project would be a challenge in places such as Silicon Valley, but doing it in Barcelona could seem a heroic and terrifying challenge.
However, this is far from reality. Barcelona is an excellent place to start this project, with top-level research centers, qualified personnel, and first class entrepreneurial environment. This does not eliminate the huge risk, but this motivates us to be extremely innovative in our business model and our value proposition, while being methodological and efficient when implementing our project.
6. What objectives do you have in mind in this new phase in Wayra? Why did you choose this accelerator?
By the end of this summer we will launch our personal sequencing service to the international market. Wayra’s support, and Telefónica’s by extension, will be invaluable in development and marketing processes. Wayra understood from the start the revolution and social benefit Genomcore DNA analyzing technology offers the world. Even though we are a young company, Wayra trusted in our team and encouraged us to present in the Wayra Global Call 2015, where we competed in the selection process with companies all over the world. To be part of this prestigious academy gives us great pride and is a recognition of the huge potential Genomcore has.