VietChallenge winner aims to make genomic services affordable to all Vietnamese

(VOVWORLD) - GeneStory is Vietnam’s only provider of genetic testing services based on a large Vietnamese dataset exclusively for Vietnamese people. This is an outstanding application of gene decoding in preventive medicine. This month GeneStory won VietChallenge 2022, a contest for Vietnamese startups around the world, winning a cash prize of 25,000 USD. On the sidelines of the recent Vietnam Venture Summit 2022, we talked to Long Nguyen, the company’s CEO and co-founder, about his startup and its products.

VietChallenge winner aims to make genomic services affordable to all Vietnamese  - ảnh 1Customer can take saliva sample at home or visit GeneStory’s partnered clinics for blood sampling, depending on the chosen package. (Photo credit: GeneStory)

Long Nguyen: Hello VOV listeners. Thanks for tuning in this interview today. My name is Long Nguyen, CEO and co-founder of GeneStory.

Bao Tram: Thank you Long Nguyen for taking the time with us. How was GeneStory born?   

Long Nguyen: GeneStory is a tech spin-out from Vingroup. Four years ago, Vingroup sponsored a project called “ThousandVietnamese genomes”, which is the largest genome sequencing project in Vietnam. And we completed that last year and we found that there was a good opportunity to use the technology to improve the lives of Vietnamese people. That’s why six months ago GeneStory was founded with the mission of providing life-saving genomics insight to every Vietnamese.

Bao Tram: What technology does GeneStory use and what distinguishes it from other technologies?  

Long Nguyen: That’s a good question. So there are two main parts of the technology. First is the data analytic part and then the wet-lab part. For data analytics, we have built a comprehensive database of Vietnamese genome data. We have 1000 healthy Vietnamese people and also have collected thousands and thousands of samples of pathology data, which allows us to provide really accurate analysis of your genome. So we benchmarked that with top labs in the world, 23andme, a lab in Korea, a lab in Singapore, and received really matching results.

In terms of wet-lab, we also have one of the most modern labs in Hanoi, with Illumina technology from America with which our team has processed more than 5,000 datasets and we have really good competence there. 

And in terms of product features, our pharmacogenomic package that is using the gene to prescribe the right drugs is the most comprehensive, and I would say that is pretty unique in the market right now. So no other company in the Vietnamese market is providing such a comprehensive pharmacogenomic package.

VietChallenge winner aims to make genomic services affordable to all Vietnamese  - ảnh 2 Long Nguyen, GeneStory’s CEO and Co-founder. (Photo credit: GeneStory)

Bao Tram: Personally, what I’m interested in is how I can access GeneStory’s services. Can you tell us more about that?

Long Nguyen: We want to provide a process that’s as simple as possible. You can get your DNA either at home, we send you a kit to collect your DNA sample at home, by yourself, just via 1ml of saliva sample or you can do that via one of our partnered clinics in Hanoi, like Vinmec and some other hospitals as we’re expanding the network. The doctor can take your blood sample, send it to our lab, and within 2-3 weeks we give you a really comprehensive genomic profile of your health and your body. So with more than 100 indicators, which drugs you can use, which drugs you must avoid and what other dosing. And also the common health risks, like what’s your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Bao Tram: So how about the price then?

Long Nguyen: The simplest package is 1.8 million VND, which lets you analyse one gene and one drug. For example, in Vietnam there’s a million people with mental health issues and gout, right? And 20-25% of those will have an adverse drug reaction to one of the most commonly prescribed drugs. And our test, for 60-70 dollars, will help you to prevent that. It’s a huge economical savings.

The most comprehensive package would be about 6 million VND (about 280 dollars), which will give you insights into more than 100 medications and drugs of all common disease groups – cardiovascular, diabetes, gout, mental health, and cancer with more than 100 types of drugs

Bao Tram: Interesting! I think the price is reasonable. 

Long Nguyen: Exactly! Our mission is really to provide it to every Vietnamese at an affordable price. And Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing middle class populations in Southeast Asia, which is really a good target group for our products.

Bao Tram: What’s your future plan?

Long Nguyen: First of all, we want to expand our channels with the pharmacogenomics package. We are covering more than 100 types of drugs and we want to include more and more of the commonly prescribed medications for Vietnamese, so they can make sure to use the medication safely and effectively.

Second, we are working on a unique diabetes risk prediction package, which can predict whether you have high chance of getting diabetes and the data is really specific for Vietnamese. And, more importantly, we can predict whether you will get complications from diabetes. For example, people who get diabetes can develop cardiovascular disease or blindness. If you predict the risk early enough, you’ll reduce that risk at least 4 times and will be able to live a healthier life. 

VietChallenge winner aims to make genomic services affordable to all Vietnamese  - ảnh 3GeneStory is the winner of VietChallenge 2022 – the biggest fund-calling contest for Vietnamese startups around the world. (Photo credit: GeneStory)

Bao Tram: This month GeneStory won VietChallenge 2022, the biggest contest for Vietnamese startups around the world, winning a cash prize of 25,000 USD. What does this mean to you?   

Long Nguyen: First of all, I’d like to say thanks to the Ministry of Planning and Investment and VietChallenge for providing the platform VietChallenge for Vietnamese startups around the world. I think the platform is a great opportunity for us to learn and grow and get connected to a lot of investors both outside and inside Vietnam to expand our ecosystem and provide necessary capital for growth. As for the prize money and the money that hopefully is going to be raised soon after this contest, we want to invest it in our capability so that we can serve more and more Vietnamese at a lower price, and invest more in our laboratory capabilities to drive the cost down so gradually genomics will become something that every Vietnamese person can afford.

Bao Tram: Thank you for spending time with us.

Long Nguyen: It’s my pleasure to speak to you today.