What drives the success of Cambridge genomics biotech pioneer Congenica?
Congenica recently raised over £23m in its latest round and the genomics revolution has spawned thousands of start-ups, writes Pierre Socha of Amadeus Capital Partners, but why has Congenica flourished where others have failed to make it?
It comes down to three things – the management team, a relentless focus on commercialisation and continuous innovation.
Genomic medicine is a combination of advanced gene sequencing techniques with big data or ‘bioinformatics’. 80 per cent of rare diseases are thought to have a genetic component, and patients wait an average of nearly five years before getting a diagnosis. Congenica has developed a decision support platform, Sapientia, that helps clinicians speed this up.
Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, Congenica was born out of pioneering research from the Wellcome Trust and the NHS.
The company has built a fantastic leadership team, including David Atkins, CEO, who has 25 years’ experience in diagnostics and healthcare businesses and was previously CEO of Synevo, with three co-founders: Prof. Phil Beales, Medical Director, and head of Genetics and Genomic Medicine at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health; Richard Durbin, Informatics Director, Group Leader of the Human Genetics Programme at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute; and Dr Matthew Hurles, Scientific Director, Head of Human Genetics also at the Sanger Institute.
It is this combination of proven business builders with true pioneers in genomic medicine that has made Congenica a stand out proposition as a venture capital investor.
Commercially, the company has been able to prove its product Sapientia by participating in the UK’s 100,000 Genomes Project as the chosen partner of the NHS.
Congenica has now been selected as the exclusive provider to the NHS Genomic Medicine Service, a world-first initiative. Further endorsement came from winning its first pharma contract, its first USA deal and by developing two commercial partnerships in China, with BGI and Digital China Health. With this foothold, Congenica aims to penetrate the North American and Chinese markets.
As innovators, Congenica’s team is nothing if not ambitious. They aim to revolutionise genetic disease predisposition testing by developing an automated analysis platform. Advised by Amadeus, experienced backers of AI-based businesses, Congenica will introduce machine learning to enhance diagnostic ‘yield’.
It’s been a real privilege to support Congenica in growing from seed investment stage to a profitable business. Its cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model – selling licences to diagnostic platform and service providers such as hospitals – has truly global potential. The end result will be faster and better treatment for millions of people suffering the effects of rare diseases and untreated conditions.