Entrepreneur Dr Tom Weaver believes the success of an early-stage, high-growth company depends on three elements – the person with the idea, a significant unmet need and a world-class technology. In his talk at ‘Innovation Forum 2016 - Leaders Conference’ on 21 September he will share insights on what has made Congenica one of the world-leaders in genomic analysis and interpretation.
“For me the person with the idea was Dr Richard Durbin, he is one of the smartest guys I have ever met. And he's got a track record of delivering major, internationally important, ground-breaking initiatives such as Human Genome Project, the 1,000 Genomes Project and the UK 100,000 Genomes Project,” says Dr Weaver.
“Richard said to me ‘there’s this great research programme and I think it has real commercial potential’.
“We are also really fortunate to have Andy Richards as an early investor and non-executive director. I had worked with Andy before and used him as a sounding board in the early days; the excitement was infectious: he said ‘wow you are working with Richard Durbin, that guy’s huge in the field.’
“The second element needed for success is an area of significant unmet need. The need for improved diagnosis is absolutely clear with genetic disease and developmental disorders. The vast majority of patients are children and too many die before they receive a diagnosis.
“The third is the world-class technology and we have an approach that is revolutionising the diagnosis and treatment of rare genetic disease and creating the opportunity for a diagnosis in days not years.
“With all the start-ups I have been involved in there is real energy around a new idea. I think for the founders of the company – many of whom have worked closely with patients with a really debilitating genetic disease – that the ability not only to have a successful company but to actually make a difference in people's lives is really essential, and that gives you the motivation to get going.”
Congenica’s Sapientia™ technology has been adopted by clinical diagnostic laboratories nationally and internationally. This has been achieved by working closely with clinicians and laboratory scientists right from the start.
“One of the first steps was to establish a network of really good clinical geneticists within the NHS, to link them up and see what they needed.”
Dr Weaver, originally from Wisconsin, USA, comments that although it would be easier to raise money in the States, it is Cambridge, UK, that is the best place to start a business. He says it offers the benefits of research institutes, the NHS teaching hospitals and a network of entrepreneurs and investors.
He believes that by establishing Genomics England Limited, the Department of Health has given the industry much needed support and this has been invaluable in gaining acceptance for genomics medicine.
“The government has an incredibly important role to play. We had a good idea and the seed capital came through the SBRI and Innovate UK awards, we also had local government funding from Manchester. Without this support we wouldn’t have been able to make any significant progress.”
“Congenica is currently in the process of a series B funding round aimed at exporting this fantastic technology to new, international markets and customers.”
Dr Tom Weaver is a speaker at the Innovation Forum 2016 - Leaders Conference in Cambridge 21 September 2016. Find out more about the conference at inno-forum.org/conference.
For more information about Congenica visit www.congenica.com.