5 Minutes with GeneAdviser – 6th Discovering Start-Ups Competition Finalist

GeneAdviser is a start-up based in Cambridge. This year they are launching a flexible, powerful online marketplace for genetic tests giving patients and their doctors better access to genetic testing from first-rate laboratories across Europe and worldwide. Their aim is to unify the genetic testing market in Europe, optimising the process for lower costs and easier access to testing across country borders. They are one of 16 finalists to be pitching at the 6th Discovering Start-Ups Competition tomorrow.

Tamzin Byrne, Communications Officer, shares insights from GeneAdviser via this short Q&A.

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Robert Stojnic and Jelena Aleksic, co-founders of GeneAdviser

What was the need you saw?

As a postdoc at Cambridge, our CEO Jelena Aleksic met lots of people working in rare diseases and learned a lot about the challenges faced by patients and carers of people with rare genetic disorders. Through them she learned about the long and frustrating journey for people with a rare disease to get an explanation for their symptoms: on average eight years, with visits to six different doctors. Given that genetic testing is cheaper than ever before, Jelena started to ask about the barriers that prevent access to these tests, and saw the need for a service which lets clinicians quickly find and order tests for the patients.

What technology innovations do you expect to see unfold going into 2016?

In the next few years, genetic testing is going to become a standard part of clinical practice., not only in rare disease diagnostics but also in targeted cancer therapies and prenatal medicine. In the UK, Genomics England is working to transform the way the NHS treats these conditions by creating the infrastructure for wide scale genetics testing through the 100k Genomes project. Internationally, there are great organisations like Orphanet and EURORDIS getting real results in their advocacy for rare diseases and helping to make testing for genetic conditions mainstream.

Across the board, the price of genetic testing is falling, but not all doctors are equipped to use genetics in their practice. While testing is easy, interpretation of genetic information will always benefit from expert guidance. We see a future where any local doctor can quickly and easily connect with genetic experts who can help them find answers for their patients – and our service will be part of that.

Share a key lesson you have learnt over the last year?

Getting to know your industry in-depth is really essential, particularly as a startup. You need to be aware of technology trends coming in, and what else is currently available. From there you identify the gaps and try and build something new and valuable, that other organisations are not focusing on.

This kind of understanding is essential for companies in general and for developing a long-term growth strategy, but it is particularly key for startups where your time and resources are by definition extremely limited. You can’t afford to waste resources solving problems that someone else has already solved.

What’s your tip to stay informed about your industry?

We work closely with potential customers to co-design a system that works for them and removes some of the frustration that they experience in their day to day work. We’ve just completed a market research study of 1200 clinicians across Europe, including in-depth interviews with 60 specialists, to really understand the genetic testing sector and how it varies by country.

On a broader scale, we’ve also joined a number of local and international professional organisations. We get out to meet people as often as we can at conferences, networking events and seminars.


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