2018 W-Power Trailblazers:
Mapmygenome allows "healthy people to stay healthy" by decoding their genetic makeup
CEO, Mapmygenome India
If the complex world of genes befuddles you, turn to Anu Acharya, CEO of Mapmygenome India, a personal genomics company. As Acharya would cut the jargon and tell you, her company “allows healthy people to stay healthy” by decoding their genetic makeup and guides them on “how to become healthier”. By 2030, she expects to touch a 100 million lives and save a million.
Mapmygenome is Acharya’s second startup in the field of genetics. In 2000, she started Ocimum Biosolutions, a genomic services company. While Ocimum is still run by its other founders, Acharya has moved beyond laboratory information management systems and pure informatics to delve into the world of personal genomics. She launched Mapmygenome in 2013. Today, the Hyderabad-based company is also building a database of associations between gene mutations and traits or conditions specific to the Indian population to advance personalised medicine in the country.
The company has processed more than 10,000 samples so far through ‘Genomepatri’ (a take-off on janampatri, or horoscope), a simple, saliva-based test to decode DNA and predict genetic risk for 100-plus diseases, traits, drug responses and carrier statuses. “While it is a product, it is ultimately delivered as a service,” says Acharya, who holds a graduate degree from IIT-Kharagpur, and postgraduate degrees in physics and management information systems from the University of Illinois. Apart from a comprehensive, analytical report, customers can also get consultations by certified genetic counsellors who prescribe lifestyle changes, and services such as nutritional meal plans and food delivery (currently only in Hyderabad).
Acharya recalls the initial challenges of fundraising, given that she was “in an area that is difficult for people to understand”. “If you are a woman founder, there is a reservation against that also,” she adds. But the company managed to rise on the back of a $1.1 million pre-series A funding, and founder investment of around $2 million in 2016. Some of its prominent investors include Rajan Anandan, vice president, Southeast Asia and India, and managing director of Google India, and Ratan Tata. Mapmygenome has clocked a compound annual growth rate of 84 percent for the past 3 years. It will end the year with ₹6 crore in revenues and negative Ebitda.
“Anu is a smart serial entrepreneur who has been a pioneer in India in BioIT and in personal and recreational genetics sectors in India. Her prowess in digital marketing and use of social networks has been evident in the foray with Mapmygenome,” says Vijay Chandru, chairman & managing director, Strand Life Sciences.
Her last year’s highlights include developing Medicamap, a genetic test popular among doctors for its ability to analyse response and sensitivity to 100-plus drugs. In terms of strategic partnerships, its new clients include institutions such as Gopichand Academy, Reliance Jio, GOQii, CallHealth and 1mg.
“The main thing was finally we’ve been able to get to (the point) where almost everybody is interested in getting a genetic test done. That is the big change for our business,” says Acharya.
Janampatri or Genomepatri
Matt Ridley, the author of the book ‘Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 chapters’, says that the genome is a book that wrote itself, continually adding, deleting and amending over four billion years. The human genome and genetic makeup have always been a topic for research and scientists.
Anu Acharya started Mapmygenome in 2011 to ensure that people are aware of their genetic makeup and work towards preventing diseases. “Genetics has always been a fascinating subject. However, India doesn’t have the same access as the west. If you look at the amount of data available on the Indian genome it is limited. Even if one out of every six individuals are Indian, we are not there in terms of understanding our own genetic makeup,” says Anu.
The uphill task
After two years of hard work and efforts, Anu and her team got in all the data on the Indian genes and genetic makeup and decided to the build it as a test for consumers. It was the beginning of the Genomepatri.
Today, Mapmygenome and its famous Genomepatri doesn’t need any introduction. The ride, nevertheless, hasn’t been all easy. Over the past two and half years, the team has also realised that preventive cure in India still has a very long way to go. Anu adds that this could be because of the ‘we’ll cross the bridge when we get there’ attitude.
“Today, there are approximately 332 million diabetic patients in the world and out of these 62 million come from India. But most people refuse to see this as a problem. I have relatives who have high sugar levels, but don’t take it seriously,” adds Anu. However, they believe there now has been a shift in attitude and people are slowly understanding the value and importance of preventive cure.
Since the products were relatively new in India, one challenging aspect was on boarding the right sales team. From ones who weren’t able to spell Genomepatri to understanding what the product does, the team has had a long haul in getting the right people.
“Everyone believes initially that it is an easy product or easy set of products to sell. Explaining and education is very important, and it this point in time we are best equipped to do that. The basics of how genetics affects behaviour, skills and even the mind needs to be explained,” adds Anu.
More than Genomepatri
“Any great business takes time to build, you need someone who can be persistent, can stay at it and actually solve the problem. I saw that in Anu, she has deep domain expertise and was passionate about the problem,” says Rajan Anandan, Investor at Mapmygenome.
Today at Mapmygenome there is so much more that they do with the genetic build and DNA, than simply creating the Genomepatri. Right from the beginning, the team knew they needed the right partners and the trust of the doctors with them. This made the team look at building a doctor base and the consumer side as well. “It is easy to get a doctor’s attention, because we are all interested in the space,” adds Anu.
Thus Mapmygenome, being both a B2C and B2B company, also has molecular diagnostics kits that specialise in tuberculosis and will be working on dengue as well. Anu adds that there is a division in the organisation that works on infectious diseases.
Citing an example of how that works, Anu says that supposing an individual goes to a doctor with a suspicion that he or she has TB, the doctors and diagnostic labs are able to give a 50–60 per cent possibility. “This isn’t very accurate, so our team is working towards making that diagnosis 99 per cent accurate,” says Anu.
The diagnostics wing of Mapmygenome is more B2B, where there is a need in the market for accurate and stronger diagnostic tests. The organisation uses genes to help bring in this accuracy.
“We always had the diagnostics aspects and they also are a part of our website, but the Genomepatri has been spoken more about as it focusses on prevention and is more consumer centric,” adds Anu.
Adding different panels
While Genomepatri is known as a personal report of an individual’s genetic makeup, Anu says there is more to it than just doing a genetic report. While an individual looks at their genetic makeup, they also need to look at their family and health history. This is in order to make a serious interpretation of what needs to be done to reduce the risk.
Initially, while the team would provide counselling along with the reports, they realised it wasn’t something the layman easily understood. In the past one year, the report also has a recommendations sheet, which helps people understand what the genetic report said and what they needed to do to reduce the risks. It also tells them what are different medical steps and preventive tests one can take.
The process is relatively simple. The consumer gives in a swab sample of their DNA (like a cheek swab), along with a consent form. Post which, the team works on the sample and sits with the consumer for a counselling session. After the counselling, they are given a list of recommendations and other steps.
With time, the Genomepatri has seen different additions, one being the recommendations report, and the other being dividing the product into 16 panels. The lite version has the basic eight panels, over this the patient chooses whether he or she wants to add more panels. “So cost of the basic lite report is at a certain price and the consumer pays Rs 2000 to get additional panels,” adds Anu.
The traction and market
Rajan adds that genetics is a large addressable market and is also very useful to the end consumer. “The first company to have the Indian genome mapped out can have all kinds of possibilities. It is facilitating towards saving millions of lives,” adds Rajan.
The team say that they started with a small base and so saw five times the growth. However, in FY 2014–2015, they doubled and this year they will see a growth that is close to three times more than last year. While the team refused to share the exact revenue details, Anu says they are now at a few crores of revenue. Mapmygenome has tie-ups with more than 38 hospitals across the country.
Genetic testing is fast growing not only in the global markets but even in India. Of these, newborn and prenatal genetic testing market is believed to touch a CAGR of 31.91 per cent. Some of the companies that are into genetic testing include the US-based 23andMe, Igenomix, which also has a subsidiary in India and Positive Bioscience among others.
“Healthtech and medtech today is where consumer Internet was at 2005. I think we are going to see many more true technology-driven companies in healthtech. There will be many more disruptive medical device technology in the space. This space is in fact going to be bigger than the consumer Internet space in the next 10–15 years,” says Rajan.
However, there still is a long way to go according to the Indian Journal of Human Genetics report, close to 90 per cent of the Indian medical colleges are yet to provide training and education in the space of genetics.
NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Indian consumer genomics company Mapmygenome is partnering with blockchain genetics startup Digital DNAtix to provide extra security and privacy for its direct-to-consumer genetic tests. The blockchain technology also will allow researchers to access anonymous data for their work, the companies said.
Digital DNAtix, of Ramat Gan, Israel, will provide Mapmygenome with a platform to offer its genome testing, analysis, and related personalized medicine services in a faster, more secure environment than previously available.
How Indian DNA Test
In Hindu culture, birth charts hold special significance. These Vedic horoscopes, called “Janampatri,” lay out the positions of celestial bodies—like the sun, moon, and planets—at the time of a person’s birth so as to reveal information, purportedly, about that person’s life. People consult them to learn what the heavens have supposedly preordained about their marriage compatibility, health, and wealth.
Even though scientists dismiss the practice, when Anu Acharya founded Mapmygenome, a DNA testing startup in India, she decided to give the folk tradition a nod. Acharya, who is CEO of the Hyderabad-based company, markets home DNA testing kits under a name that cleverly alludes to Janampatri. They’re called “Genomepatri.”
“Genomics was not something that was naturally relatable to most consumers in India,” Acharya told an audience at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conferencein San Diego, Calif. on Wednesday morning. “So we said what is the closest thing that people can relate to, and that was astrology.”
The analogy makes sense, as Fortune executive editor Adam Lashinsky pointed out on stage: “It’s a taxonomy for understanding life.”
“I’m not making a judgment on whether the Janampatri is scientifically right,” Acharya replied. “But it essentially gives you a guidance on whether you should marry somebody.”
Extending the astrological analogy, Acharya noted that people carrying genes that put offspring at high risk for certain heritable diseases might decide on the right mate based on their genetic profiles. The tests use a swab of saliva to determine a person’s genetic makeup.
Some genes are associated with higher incidences of certain diseases, like cancer or Parkinson’s. Women who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations are, for instance, at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
On stage as well, Alejandra Campoverdi, a women’s health advocate and former White House aide under former President Barack Obama, said that she had recently taken a genetic test to determine if she might be a carrier of the BRCA mutation as several members of her family had been diagnosed with breast cancer over the years. Campoverdi learned that she is indeed a carrier, a finding that has persuaded her to eventually undergo a double mastectomy, a personal choice that matches the recommendations of her doctors.
Acharya believes that genetic testing will help pave the way for preventative health care. She formerly founded Ocimum Bio Solutions, another genetic testing company.
“I just got an offer from somebody who is an astrologer and is a VC who said that we should do a study of both of them together,” Acharya said.
The US-based ThinkGenetic and Mapmygenome, a personal genomics company in Hyderabad, have joined hands to improve genetic services and diagnostics for providing better preventive healthcare.
Through this partnership, ThinkGenetic users from India will be able to connect more easily to the resources closer to them. Mapmygenome, which currently specialises in clinical genomics and molecular diagnostics, has teams providing genetic services all over India.
Move aimed at enhancing performance levels. At the Pullela Gopichand Academy, one of the top nurseries of Indian badminton in Hyderabad, emerging and existing stars are getting their 'Genomepatras'. The objective is to work up their fitness-physical, mental & emotional to face the tough & competitive global arena via a better understanding of their genetics.
How Indian DNA Test Startup
These Vedic horoscopes, called “Janampatri,” lay out the positions of celestial bodies—like the sun, moon, and planets—at the time of a person’s birth so as to reveal information, purportedly, about that person’s life. People consult them to learn what the heavens have supposedly preordained about their marriage compatibility, health, and wealth.
GPS of the Genome
The award-winning molecular diagnostics company helps people understand their genetic make up for a healthier life. Anu Acharya wants people to knows their genetic build so that they can save themselves from disease.
One pill does not suit all that is the basic understanding on which Mapmygenome started in 2013. Every individual has a different genetic body type and drugs, while prescribed en masse for ostensibly the same disease, often react very differently to different gene types. Acharya says her target is to enable a 100 million Indians to get access to better healthcare using genomics. ‘As we at Mapmygenome enable the 4 Ps of healthcare(personalized, predictive, participatory and preventive),’ she says.
It’s all in genes.
Hyderabad: It's all in the genes, believes this Hyderabadi startup that makes products for people who would much rather bet their future on genetics than 'dawa or duwa'. Launched in April 2013 by serial entrepreneur Anu Acharya, Mapmygenome is a molecular diagnostics player that makes personalised genomics products that help provide a sneak peek into one's future health by decoding genes.
Unlocking The Gene
Anu Acharya is one of India’s young achiever women entrepreneurs who is currently the CEO of Mapmygenome India, a genomics company whose vision is ‘Better health using Technology’. She started her entrepreneurial journey in 2000 and built one of the largest global genomics brand.
Wall Street Journal
Yes! We are the only Indian company to be selected in this illustrious list. Today (October 25th) we spread our message and vision at the The Wall Street Journal Startup Showcase in California.
The Startup Showcase finalists are noted to be selected by The Wall Street Journal’s senior editors from entries across the world.
The Hindu belief is that we are born with an opening balance sheet of good and bad deeds, karma. We don't know the balance sheet, so we get on with our lives. Through life's actions, further good and bad deeds occur along with their consequences. Astrologers claim to cast our janampatri, based on the date and time of our birth and forecast our future; we are cautiously suspicious, but often succumb to astrologers as the travails of life play out. When it comes to genomics.
After being an entrepreneur for 16 years, Anu Acharya is no stranger to challenges. But from 2011, with Mapmygenome’s Genomepatri, Anu has been slowly and yet steadily transforming the way we look at treatment and preventive healthcare.
At the seventh edition of ‘TechSparks 2016’, Anu Acharya decided to decipher if genomics can determine entrepreneurship, with the eternal nurture versus nature.
Genomic testing is emerging as the next big segment in medical diagnostics. Start-ups such as MapmyGenome, Datar Genomics, MedGenome Labs and Strand Life Sciences, a decade-old firm founded by former Indian Institute of Science (IISc) professors, offer services - sequencing the genes of individuals and finding diseases they are genomically prone to.
Genomic fingerprinting has been used for a long time to establish a person’s parentage, but now laboratories are using the technique to predict people’s health.
The genomic tests offered by the laboratories look for gene mutations that can predict the likelihood of diseases like breast cancer and hypertension. As part of the service, genomic counselors then suggest dietary and lifestyle changes to lower the risks.
MapMyGenome, a Hyderabad-based DNA and gene testing company launched two products — SlimGene and SMART Tuberculosis — on Friday, to help diagnose and identify two huge problems Indians face when it comes to their health — obesity and Tuberculosis.
A casual conversation with a friend introduced the concept of genomic assessment to Vivek Bhargava. The 39-year-old technology entrepreneur who had just sold his company was in the process of taking stock of personal and professional goals. Intrigued by his friend's idea, he took the personal genome mapping test at her company, Mapmygenome. The results astonished Bhargava.
The conference room at Strand Life Sciences looked welcoming, yet formidable. After all, four professionals had gathered to discuss what my Exome sequences were revealing.