The startup company Genomenon aims to bring software to labs that will allow them to more efficiently and quickly analyze genomes to help research, diagnose, and treat cancer and other inheritable diseases.
The company’s team - based out of Ann Arbor - hopes to launch the product in January. One of the team members behind the project is Steve Schwartz ‘08, co-founder and chief technology officer.
The company recently got some recognition during the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in November, snagging second place and $100,000 toward producing the product.
“It was pretty awesome. The money definitely goes a long way,” Schwartz said, adding they are in the fundraising stages toward $1 million. “It’s going to help us scale a bit faster.”
Accelerate Michigan is an international business competition designed to highlight Michigan as a robust and vibrant venue for innovation and business opportunity.
After an application process, the competition started with more than 50 companies, who each had to give a 10-minute business pitch. Then 10 finalists were chosen to give a 5-minute pitch before the winners were chosen.
Schwartz, who majored in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Kettering, said Genomenon picked up a couple of investors at the competition as well.
The software would help drastically reduce the time it takes to analyze a person’s genome sequence and analyze the mutations. It would look at the mutations and say what that could mean for diseases.
“To actually get it interpreted takes so long that there’s a backlog of data that these medical labs have been sent,” Schwartz said. “There is a nine to 12 month backlog of data they have to process, which in a lot of cases is too long.”
The Genomenon team wanted to do something to fix the problem, especially if that meant better treatment for cancer patients by knowing more about the mutated genes.
The typically time to analyze someone’s genome sequence - the mutated genes and what they mean - is anywhere from three hours to a full day.
“What our software does is take that three- to-24-hour-process down to 10 minutes,” Schwartz said. “It can really be used for any genetic inheritable disease, but our main focus is cancer.”
The software Genomenon developed is set up for automatic and systematic text mining of the full body of every medical research paper ever published.
“It allowed us to build an extremely large and comprehensive database for every gene, every disease and every mutation,” he said. “Our software is able to look through all the data and prioritize which mutations are most relevant for what you are looking for.”
Schwartz has co-founded several successful software start-ups as managing partner at Alfa Jango, a software development firm specializing in web-based software start-ups.
He was looking for his next start-up to get passionate about when he met Dr. Mark Kiel, Genomenon’s co-founder and CEO.
“I’ve had family members affected by cancer in the past and when he showed me what he wanted to do and how it would revolutionize how you treat cancer it got me really excited,” Schwartz said. “That’s why I wanted to co-found and help build that with him.”
Schwartz has always had an entrepreneurship spirit. While at Kettering he helped start the Kettering Entrepreneur Society. It was a way for students to connect with others dealing the same passion and struggles, he said. And passion is the one thing Schwartz advises students looking to be an entrepreneur have.
“You encounter a lot more failures than successes. If you’re not either passionate or crazy - or maybe a bit of both - you will never stick with it through enough failures to get to the successes,” he said. “Passion motivates you more than rational, which keeps you going and helps you find success.”
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