Hobnobbing with Mark Hahnel from Genomes.io

posted by 5 years ago in Hobnobbing
Hobnobbing with Mark Hahnel from Genomes.io

So, what do Genomes.io do?

Genomes.io is a platform that helps to secure the personal DNA data of individuals using encryption and blockchain technology. The distinguishing feature of Genomes.io is that we can securely query the sequence without exposing the data. This has huge potential for revolutionising personal medicine and healthcare.

What’s behind the business idea?

With the very rapid advancement of technology in the healthcare industry, we see that it has become a lot easier and less costly to sequence your genetic code. Think of mainstream DNA tools out there such as 23andMe, Ancestry.com or even a drugstore paternity test. For less than £50 your DNA can be recorded and used for further research. On the one hand, this is great news. On the other, we have seen recently how little personal information is needed to have catastrophic effects. We want to stop that happening with your most personal data.

As general consumers of many Healthcare technology tools we need to ensure the general public is never manipulated, abused or discriminated against on the basis of our genetic code.

Can you imagine that one day you might not get a job because you have a higher risk of having heart problems than other candidates in thirty years time? Or that your insurer does not want to cover you anymore because you are more likely to develop a specific disease than their average clients?

It sounds like a scary futuristic scenario but it is a lot closer than you think.

Pharmaceutical are very interested in our genomic data and they are willing to pay very big money for it. 23andme have already sold access to their database for $60m. Genomes.io is here to protect individual users from being exploited in such a scenario.

Was it hard becoming a business owner?

It is always difficult to get your business right but Genomes.io is not our first adventure. The naiveity in starting a business the first time did have some benefits though. We are very aware of the size of the task and are fully committed to the hard work that goes with it!

It definitely helps to have some insights and experience and to work from there in building a new venture. Don’t get me wrong there are still a lot of hurdles you need to overcome to get it right, especially as the tech landscape changes so quickly. But building a company based on previous knowledge of myself and my co-founders has its advantages.

How did you recruit your employees?

We came together as a team of previous colleagues and friends who all had a keen interest and motivation to get into this. Each team member brings something different, from corporate and governmental experience to the academic research side of genomics itself.

Was there a breakthrough moment?

The alignment of the need and the technology hit me when I was listening to genetics researchers at a conference suggesting that in the next decade, we may see 1 billion people having their genome sequenced. The problem and solution to the potential lawlessness of the space hit me quite hard. It seems investors and other organisations were equally effected when the Cambridge Analytica leaks of much less personal information were manipulated in such a scary way.

How is the company doing?

The company is doing great. We’re focussing on building out the tech stack so that it really stands head and shoulders above our competitors.

Genomes.io wants to ensure that the end-user retains full ownership and rights over highly personal DNA data and the highly robust blockchain technology enables us to do so. We are very happy to see that we have been able to get some much traction so quickly and hope we can keep it up.

We are currently orchestrating our first investment raise for which we already have gathered up on quite a bit of interest and have some great commitments from exciting partners.

Do you have any regrets?

The only thing I wish I had more of is time. This project has been several years in the making as we pull together the right team from other areas. The seed round is helping build out the team to get us running at full speed, which makes me a lot more comfortable.

What makes you stand out from your competitors?

We are different because our platform provides an all-round service to the individual consumer. From sequencing to storing to providing our users with the option to decide on which providers they want to deal with. Our focus is and always will be on the individual user to ensure that his/her DNA data will be used for the actual reasons he/she has given consent for. We also have partnered with a very advanced team in Rockchain. As a result, the technology stack we are developing has the unique combination of scalability and security, so often overlooked in this space.

What is your definition of a positive customer experience?

My definition would be that our users feel 100% secure with our platform, that they want to use it for anything that would handle their personal genomic data From storing and encrypting it to using it for overall healthcare advancement with their explicit consent.

If you could help a business now with a single piece of advice, what would it be?

As a team, we have learned a lot about what the costs of running a business are. We are very aware of how much wastage can be avoided by keeping tight processes and being sensible with our investors money.. A good trick for this is to always outweigh if there is a cheaper (or free) alternative for the expenditure you are about to make. This prevents you from burning unnecessary cash and focus on the profitability of your company.

Finally, Mark what is your favourite biscuit?!

I am a big fan of the authentic Belgian cookies from Jules Destrooper. Their Almond and Belgian Chocolate thins are amazing. Find them at Waitrose!