Telangana Today: Tackling challenges is in the DNA for this genome specialist from Hyderabad
Recognised as one of the top genomics leaders India has ever produced, Anu Acharya, CEO of Mapmygenome runs her company whose vision is “To touch 100 million lives”.
Four years back, she introduced the concept of improved healthcare through personal genomics in the country.
Ever since, she has successfully pioneered the company through growing product lines, expanding affiliate network and a Pre-series A round of funding. Headquartered in Hyderabad, her company offers personalised health solutions based on genetic tests that help people to get to know about themselves.
By combining genetic health profile and health history with genetic counseling, Mapmygenome provides actionable steps for individuals and their physicians towards a healthier life.
The company is focused on preventive health-care through healthy habits. Services offered include personal genomics, molecular diagnostics, brain wellness solutions, TB diagnostic kits, and DNA forensics. It offers innovative genetics-based solutions for medical practitioners to help them bridge the gap between healthcare and personal health.
It also offers collaborative research solutions spanning the entire genomics workflow to healthcare projects. Anu Acharya, CEO, Mapmygenome India, told Telangana Today, “We are doing whole genome sequencing now. The trust between the physicians and us is building up. We are currently carrying out five research studies including glaucoma and diabetes. We are in 65 countries and getting traction from other countries as well. Genomepatri, carrier testing as part of Matchmygenome (for arranged marriages) and exome-based testing for specific cases will be the prime focus in the coming years.”
From 2000 until April 2013, Acharya was the CEO of Ocimum Biosolutions, a global genomics outsourcing partner for discovery, development and diagnostics, a company that began as a pure bioinformatics company.
Since co-founding the company in 2000, she has led it through three strategic international acquisitions, two capital raises for equity investments and launch of several innovative products, solutions and services through its proprietary platform called RaaS (Research as a Service).
She currently serves as a Governing Board member at the NIBMG (National Institute for Biomedical Genomics) and IIIT Hyderabad. She is on the Board of Mentors for IvyCap Ventures and Advisory Board at Flag A Spot, Action for India & KIIT.
She is also a member of CII National Committee on Biotechnology. In May 2016, Women Economic Forum honoured her with the award Iconic Innovative Trailblazers of the Decade.
In October 2015, she received the FICCI FLO Women Achiever’s Award in the category Innovation through Technology.
She was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum for its class of 2011. The British High Commission also named her part of the “Young Leaders Forum” in 2013.
Prior to founding Ocimum Biosolutions, Acharya has had rich experience in the Telecom, IT and entrepreneurship arenas. She worked for a startup in the telecommunications space called Mantiss Information and a consulting firm called SEI Information where she helped create a social networking site for entrepreneurs. Her experience is backed by education at premier institutions such as the IIT Kharagpur and University of Illinois where she has two Postgraduate degrees in Physics and MIS.
Acharya had an inherent ability and could recognise her strengths quite early. “From childhood, I had seen certain things that came to me naturally be it creating something or selling an idea. I didn’t have to try hard. Genomics is something that I wanted to look at as it was challenging and I knew I could contribute there. It was intellectually challenging and I knew I could make a mark. I just didn’t want to start any business, I wanted to start something that I will enjoy. The difficulty level in genomics was high and I like such challenges. I wanted to try out things that were harder,” she said.
On her journey, she recalls, “I moved to Hyderabad as my family was here. Two decades ago when my entrepreneurial journey began, Hyderabad had a vibrant pharmaceuticals industry and IT was evolving and there was a huge opportunity to take advantage of this confluence. There was a natural ecosystem to evolve a business that connected both these sectors. We had to sell our services outside of India. I had to constantly travel to the US as we had operations there. Initially, Hyderabad served as a backend operation but later it became the front-end for the company. We went unusual routes and did acquisitions. We saw our set of challenges.”
Venture capital scenario
In terms of funding scenario, she observes, very few venture capitalists (VCs) are funding women entrepreneurs. Women have to pitch many more times to get funding from the VC.
She asserted, “If you go to a VC who is not willing to fund you, you are better off not getting funding from there. Another major challenge with the ecosystem is that there are no enough VCs who are women. Bias is there in the system and sometimes those who have such bias may not even notice that they have it. It will come very subtle. That’s why we need hard data to support how many women entrepreneurs pitch for funding, how many times they pitch and how many of them get funding actually.”
Life science is a very specialised area and entrepreneurs need to explain the basics, technology and how a product or service is going to work or disrupt. A lot of effort has to go into educating the VCs first as they have to understand the innovation in order to fund you.
Disruptive companies have to push hard to make the VCs understand as their ideas are niche. A sad part is entrepreneurs are falling for the ecosystem. Entrepreneurs with passion in one sector are ending up choosing business that gets them VC money. This is dangerous.
Originally Published: TELANGANA TODAY
Written by: Y V Phani Raj