How this Wall Street professional is using genetics and Big Data to help fight cancer
While working on Wall Street in 2011, Samarth Jain was first introduced to the world of genetics. Fascinated by how genes and genetics actually work and help with determining diseases and their impact on healthcare, Samarth realised that the western world had incorporated genomics in their healthcare system. Wanting to replicate the same, he set up Positive Bioscience in 2012, which was formally launched in 2014.
The platform was started to transform people’s health by integrating genomics, Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI). The idea is to make genetic testing more accessible and affordable in order to transform the healthcare outcome.
However, before their launch, the team spent close to two years in developing the technology, products and understanding the market. The team soon started Positive Bioscience as a genomic testing solution to help cancer patients convalesce and prevent healthy individuals from falling ill. They launched the personal genomics and cancer genomics in August 2014.
What does the platform do?
Once the team receives the genomic data, they use Big Data analytics, AI, and advanced machine learning techniques to correlate the genetic profiles, the drugs administered, and survival outcomes.
The team has developed their own AI computing platform called Positive Intelligence that scans through every drug available for cancer and then categorises it depending on the response levels in the body. This helps the team suggest drugs that are most likely to successfully treat the patient.
The personal genomics tests look for genetic mutations that can predict the risk of several diseases in healthy individuals. Once the risks are identified, the genetic counsellors explain the report and also suggest a personalised prevention plan to mitigate the risks of these diseases. The prevention plan is specifically focused on nutrigenomics and lifestyle changes.
The cancer genomics test looks at mutations, which can help doctors select the optimum course of treatment for treating cancer patients.
The biggest challenge when we began was the lack of awareness about genetic testing in the country. The limited exposure to genomics was equally prevalent among healthcare providers, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies, says 27-year-old Samarth.
Finding the experts
They had to breakdown the entire process into smaller steps and convey their vision in the simplest way possible. The ride wasn’t smooth for the team, when they first started; they found it difficult to recruit employees who had the right expertise and understood their vision.
However, as the team started organising events, conferences, and symposiums, Samarth met people who were curious about genomics, had appropriate experience, and were excited to join the genomics revolution.
Roping in friends and their contacts, Samarth then formed the core team with Shantanu Parihar, an MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai and had worked at Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer Ingeiheim; Dr Gowhar Shafi, a PhD from Karolinska Institute, Sweden; Manisha Sonavadekar, ex-Johnson & Johnson and Piramal Healthcare; and Dr Swapnil Jaiswal, an MD in Pharmacology, also an ex Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Collaborating with the biggies
By the second half of 2014, they had launched a personal genomics clinic at Medanta, The Medicity Hospital in Gurgaon. “Soon, we collaborated with Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital in Mumbai to launch Mumbai’s first genomics clinic,” says Samarth.
Another big moment for the team was last year when the world’s number one molecular diagnostic company – US-based Myriad Genetics approached them for a partnership. Myriad Genetics is well known for discovering BRCA gene testing for breast cancer.
Growth and traction
From August 2014, the team claims that their cancer genomics product saw a growth of 250 per cent, and claims they are seeing an over 300 per cent increase in personal genomics in a year. “Currently, the top 50 cancer hospitals in the country are using our cancer genomics products,” adds Samarth.
In the last six months, the team claims to have witnessed a MoM growth of 20 per cent, and expect to continue this momentum for another 18 months. “We aim to close 2016 Financial Year at Rs 5 crore,” says Samarth.
All their tests are carried out in NABL/CAP/CLIA-accredited laboratories in the US, Korea, China, and India.
We want to expand the cancer genomics space and wish to sequence 2 in every 10 cancer patients in the country over the next three years. On the personal genomics front, we are planning to partner with more than 200 big hospitals to start personal genomics centres. We are working to evolve genomics products to make it more accessible and affordable to every person in the country, says Samarth.
Genetic testing is fast catching up in India, while in the US there is 23andME and Igenomix, which has an Indian subsidiary. There also is the Rajan Anandan-backed Mapmygenome. Of the different types of testing going on currently, prenatal and newborn genetic testing is growing at a CAGR of 31.91 per cent.
The Igenomix India arm claims to have done business worth $916,000 in the last financial year, and claims that the business is now growing at a rate of 45 per cent.