In just four months, co-founders Josette-Renée Landry and Brian Wilhelm went from their idea of a genome sequencing analysis service to filing for incorporation and proof of concept. The two, who met during their doctorates in Genetics at UBC, don’t come from a tech background, but Landry says her biotech and business development background was helpful when launching Streamline Genomics. “They definitely provided me with the confidence that I had the sales, partnership and R&D skills for Streamline to be successful,” she said in an interview with Montreal in Technology.
The former co-founder of a Vancouver-based biotech consulting firm gained whatever skills she lacked at The Founder Institute in Montreal and Tech Stars New York. She graduated from both this past spring. But it’s her academic background that makes her able to create a company specialized in analyzing gene sequencing information that clinicians can find overwhelming.
Like a lot of big data analysis, having terabytes of data but not being able to interpret it negates the value of the data, so simply sequencing a genome isn’t helpful in and of itself. Add to that million types of gene mutation variants, and a clinician’s work becomes a lot harder.
According to a Tech Stars article, about 40% of cancer patients in America (about 650,000 people) are affected by inadequate analysis tools in hospitals per year. “Streamline Genomics provides clinicians with a powerful and user-friendly analysis platform that can better inform diagnosis and treatment,” said Landry. Clinicians log in, upload sequencing information for their patient, select specific parameters for the analysis and wait a few hours while Streamline’s algorithm goes to work.
“The clinician can then retrieve the report and review the critical mutations that are likely driving the patient’s cancer,” she said. “The clinician can focus on the actionable variants, meaning those for which medical intervention is possible.” In addition to a summary report featuring interactive, visual representations of data, the underlying data is also integrated and easily accessible for clinicians to take deeper dive if required.
The information that Streamline Genomics can provide can “tailor the patient’s treatment based on their specific mutations,” wrote Alex Iskold on Techstars.com. The company is currently working with a Montreal hospital on a pilot project and has partnered with four hospitals in Eastern Canada.
For now, Streamline is focusing on cancer, specifically pediatric leukemia, but is hoping to eventually offer its services for rare genetic diseases. It’s also targeting hospitals and research labs, hoping to set itself apart from other genome analysis services with is ease-of-use and UX/UI and extensive network.
“Rather than trying to develop a single service to meet a wide variety of needs and markets, Streamline Genomics remains entirely focused on clinicians and clinical oncology, unlike competitors that have a broader genomic use case,” said Landry.
Founding a company is never smooth sailing, though, and Landry says the biggest technical challenge has been finding and hiring the right tech talent in a market with such high demand. The team now includes three much younger employees: a business development specialist with a BSc in biochemistry, a software engineer with a BSc in computer science and a UX/UI specialist completing a BA in global business and digital arts.
While time will tell if Streamline Genomics can scale fast enough and provide a better service than its competitors to be successful in the long term, the competition with similar companies will certainly help make gene sequencing analysis more accessible. Anything that makes a doctor’s job easier is probably better for patients, which is one of Landry’s goals. “We want to have our platform deployed and used throughout Canada and the US to help bring genomics to clinics. We want to democratize genomics sequence analysis.”