Big Data is becoming increasingly relevant for the healthcare industry, and although it raises new challenges for data protection and data analytics, the potential for diagnostics is huge.
Launched in 2011, Sophia Genetics is a Swiss-based analytics company that is using AI to accelerate diagnostics in oncology, hereditary cancer, metabolic disorders, pediatrics and cardiology via DNA sequencing, and could be the tiny mountainous country’s next big win in the tech industry. Sophia Genetics is betting on powerful AI algorithms and a global community of hospitals to move diagnostics forward.
The process (which takes two days rather than the existing technology’s timeframe of several months) begins with the extraction of the patient’s DNA via a blood draw or biopsy.
The hospital then prepares samples and processes them using a DNA sequencer. That data is then entered into the Sophia DDM platform, which uses its AI to dig around and identify the mutations in the patient’s genome. “The more hospitals use the analytical platform, the more genomic profiles it analyzes, and the smarter the AI gets,” explains Sophia Genetics chief executive Jurgi Camblong.
Since Sophia DDM is a software-as-a-service platform, hospitals aren’t paying annual licensing fees for technology they use infrequently. They simply create a login and pay a fee whenever they use it to enter a new sample. Fees range between $50-200 a test.
There are about 215 hospitals from 35 countries, including France, Italy, Brazil and South Africa, that are using the platform today.
“I like to invest in companies that propose more efficient and targeted solutions for cancer diagnostics,” explains Marc Coucke, Founder of Alychlo, a Belgium-based investment firm that invested in Sophia Genetics. “Through Sophia’s AI technology, each patient tested today helps to further improve the diagnosis for another patient tomorrow.” A patient’s data in Berlin could, therefore, help a patient with a similar mutation in Shanghai.
Unlike other startups, which have pursued the consumer market for genetics testing, Sophia Genetics is committed to working with professional healthcare facilities, because accurately interpreting genetic data requires a specialist’s touch, according to Camblong.
“Our business model will never go B2C,” says Camblong. “The ones that have tried have failed, because in an industry that requires so much expertise, you need health professionals to monitor the process and the outcomes.”
The company is also well-positioned with its European base, according to its chief executive. “The use of genomics for diagnostics is actually expanding much faster in Europe that in the US,” explains Camblong. The U.S. is in the company’s sights, though, thanks to a co-marketing agreement with Illumina, the California-based global leader in DNA sequencing technology.
So far, Sophia has raised $33 million through three funding rounds, with investors that include Invoke Capital, Alychlo, Swisscom Ventures and Endeavour Vision.
With an increasing network of hospitals and an eager investor base, Sophia Genetics could very well become Switzerland’s next unicorn.