Our DNA can tell us a lot about our body. The Romanian Startup GenetX uses this information to find out what we need to be healthy – what kind of nutrients are missing in our body or what kind of drugs would probably have the best chances to cure our diseases. 5-HT talked to co-founder Mircea Ivanov about the nutrigenetic and pharmacogenetic tests that GenetX offers – and about his plan to design an app that is eventually supposed to become a universal application for practically everything concerning health and wellbeing.
What is the idea of GenetX?
GenetX is a supplier of genetic tests that also offers nutritional consultancy based on the results of the genetic tests. Right now, we are developing a mobile app that will help its users to become their own nutritionists.
What kind of genetic tests do you offer?
Mainly, we offer nutrigenetic tests, analyzing what kind of nutrients are missing and giving advice for a healthy and balanced diet. There is a number of different specific tests, for example for pregnant women or for professional athletes. Besides, we also offer pharmacogenetic tests for many different cases. For example, if somebody has a disease like Diabetes or Rheuma, we can predict which drugs are going to have the best effects.
How does it work for the customer?
First of all, the customer orders a genetic test kit online, choosing what he wants to have tested. Then, he provides a saliva sample and sends it to our lab. There, the DNA is extracted, sequenced and interpreted. The applicability of the data from the genetic test is actually the innovative part about GenetX. We analyze up to 98 genes and up to 400 genetic variations, also comparing haplotypes, different groups of genes. Finally, we translate the genetic interpretation into advice for the customer. The customer receives his results online in the form of a detailed report. If he wants, he can also make an appointment with a nutritionist or healthcare provider to determine the nutrient deficiencies based on his actual eating pattern.
Who is your target group?
Our tests are designed for well-educated people who understand the importance of prevention, and people with metabolic imbalances who need a therapeutic nutrition solution. The genetic test has the cheapest price per genetic variant interpreted, and because of the huge number of genetic variations, it is the most expensive test on the market. Therefore, we mainly address our customers individually and work together with some private clinics.
Why should somebody who feels completely healthy take a genetic test?
It is scientifically proven that, in time, nutritional deficiencies will cause diseases. It works both ways, so too much or too less can represent a problem sooner or later. Globally, 1 in 5 deaths are associated with poor nutrition. You can have the healthiest diet with great nutritional values and still have deficiencies. From our experience, it is very difficult to eat everything that your body needs. That’s why we provide a supplement list after we compare the personal nutritional needs with the eating pattern. The pharmacogenetic tests are designed for people with specific diseases, but the nutrigenetic tests are interesting for everybody who wants to remain healthy and prevent diseases.
What is the story behind the foundation of GenetX?
GenetX was founded in 2017. At that time, my sister was suffering of psoriasis. My mother, Simona Maria Ivanov, a medical doctor, tried a lot of different things. They went to many doctors in and outside of Romania, but nothing had a lasting effect that could help my sister. Finally, they took a genetic test which showed that there was a big lack of vitamin B12. So, my sister made little changes to her diet and started to take vitamins and monthly shots of B12, and soon she completely recovered. She was cured only by a change of nutrition. Because we experienced this in our family, my mother and me decided to start GenetX. Since then, GenetX has grown a lot: By now, the team consists of three executives, four developers, and four scientists. We still have 100 % equity and we finance ourselves from competition prizes, European grants and profits.
Why have you decided to develop an app?
The idea started from the needs of our patients to obtain easier access to their data and to make use of it. The money spent on the genetic test is only worth it if you apply the results, and thus, we found digitalization to be the solution. Up to now, the customer receives a report of 100 pages plus a summary of 20 pages showing the results of his test. The important points are highlighted, but it is still a lot to read. At the moment, we are testing the app and planning to launch it next year.
Apart from showing the results of the genetic tests, which functions are you planning for your app?
You can input your eating habits and compare them to the EFSA standard need of nutrients, and you can get recommendations for a change of diet or for the use of food supplements. In the future, we want our app to be a health center. You can have your own profile page and connect with your friends and healthcare providers. You can synchronize the data of your smartwatch into the app, for example to monitor how much you have been exercising or how good your sleep was last night. You can organize everything in a calendar, like setting up a delivery from a supermarket or making an appointment with a catering provider. With this app, we want to keep our focus on nutrition and add general healthcare features.
In May, GenetX was part of our program X-Linker, together with eleven other startups. The program offered various mentoring sessions and gave startups the opportunity to connect with investors and corporates. What were your experiences with X-Linker – what were your biggest learnings?
The mentoring sessions were very helpful for us, especially the session in which we could train our presentation skills, but also the sessions about market and business model. We also learned a lot about the health care system in Germany. There were also two companies showing interest in strategic partnerships. The program definitely helped us to get a better understanding of our position in the healthcare market and improve our services.