Startup Of the Week: Droplet Genomics
“Startup Lithuania” is presenting an amazing startup of healthcare market – Droplet Genomics! The team of scientists, engineers, data analysts are developing the proprietary technology and launching an integrated research instrument for single cell analysis. Check the whole interview with Juozas Nainys, the CEO of Droplet Genomics.
What is Droplet Genomics?
Droplet Genomics is a team of droplet microfluidics experts with a diverse background. We are scientists, engineers (both hardware and software) and data analysts translating academic breakthroughs to healthcare applications. We focus on a new technology of single-cell analysis with the goal of improving complex disease diagnostics.
What are your competitors and competitive advantages?
There is a number of different startups and big companies all venturing in the same field of single cell analysis. On the other hand, the healthcare market is far from saturated and highly segmented. Furthermore, it is hard to determine the end goal of many companies. This makes it hard to pinpoint our direct competitors. Some of the most successful names in the game are 10X Genomics, Dolomite Bio, Mission Bio, 1CellBio and BD. Our competitive advantage lies in our deep understanding of the underlying technology, our highly multidisciplinary team and rapid technology development cycle. We also have also developed the proprietary technology that secures us our own corner in the field.
What were the reasons behind coming up with this idea and launching this product?
Back in 2015 one of our founders (dr. Linas Mažutis) finished developing a breakthrough technology for analyzing single cells in a high-throughput manner. It took him 3 years to make it work. Once published in the academic community this technology immediately transformed biological research of complex cell systems, and birthed a new research field of single cell analysis. We are aware of the high potential of this new technology and the deep impact in healthcare that it can lead to. However, it needs to be adapted and improved to make it viable for routine use.
When exactly did you launch, what were the main challenges before launching?
We started as a company in 2016. The main challenge was setting the company up in a structured way from the get-go. We started by launching a line of products that we intended to sell and use the revenue stream to finance our technology development. This meant setting up essential operation such as production, accounting, shipping all straight from day one. This proved to be a challenge as we had to figure everything out for the first time.
Our target customers fall into three broad categories: academia, biotech industry, and hospitals (healthcare professionals). These customers are different in their needs and associated regulatory requirements. Our growth is synchronized with addressing the different customer segments. Currently, we are serving academia and biotech industry. This gives us revenue flow and provides us with the experience that is needed to develop products for the healthcare market.
What are the main challenges while working on this product and how are you overcoming them?
The product we are working on is inevitably complex as it involves many different technologies (molecular biology, lasers, optics, microfluidics, big data analysis, machine vision). Thus developing an easy to use final product that gives reliable results is a big challenge from a technical perspective. The many technical issues our talented team has already solved built confidence that we can always find a solution. Furthermore, there are legal challenges associated with patents and the resulting freedom to operate. We are trying to overcome these issues by developing novel and proprietary technology solutions. Finally, when entering the healthcare market, there will be regulatory issues addressed.
How are you funded? Do you seek extra funding?
We are currently funded by our revenue and EU research grants. We will be seeking additional funding shortly.
Please introduce your founders, your core team and your broader team?
Our founders are dr. Linas Mažutis (currently Scientific Advisor and Chair of Board), Juozas Nainys (currently CEO), dr. Karolis Leonavičius (currently COO) and Dalius Kučiauskas (currently CTO). All of the founders come from an academic background and have over 45 years of combined experience in biological research. Founders have worked and studied in the world’s top universities (Harvard, Oxford, Columbia, MSKCC). Dr. Linas Mažutis has been working in the field of droplet microfluidics for over 14 years and is a world-recognized expert in this research topic. Droplet Genomics team has 12 members who are scientists, hardware engineer, chemical engineers, electronics engineers and programmers.
How has business been so far? Could you share some numbers to illustrate this (users, sales, etc)?
Our business has been steadily growing (over 100k yearly revenue in 2018). We are currently serving research laboratories at the world’s top universities (Harvard, Oxford, EMBL, Caltech, etc). However, we are not focusing on expanding sales of current products. Most of our time and effort is devoted to developing our proprietary technology and launching an integrated research instrument for single cell analysis.
Future plans, ambitions? Simply speaking – what’s next?
Currently, we are finishing the development of our integrated technological platform (Q1 2020). This product is aimed at the biotech industry and pharmaceutical companies. It will also allow us to continue on our path towards diagnostic healthcare applications.
Thank you for your answers!