Paying for Peace of Mind: Why a Cancer-Detection Startup Pivoted to Offer COVID Testing

Jo Bhakdi, CEO and founder of Quantgene, explains why the next phase of “health security” is all about consumer-driven DNA sequencing.

Key Points

  • According to Bhakdi, Quantgene has the world’s most advanced high precision DNA sequencing system, which was initially created to detect multiple types of cancer from blood samples.
  • “Detecting a whole range of cancers in their early stages would be a game changer,” says Bhakdi.
  • In order to handle the sheer volume of data required to detect certain cancers, Quantgene had to completely revamp how DNA sequencing data is processed. “That’s where Quantgene shines the most,” says Bhakdi.
  • When COVID hit, Quantgene realized that compared to the DNA sequencing they were doing for cancer detection, the COVID antibody test was extremely “simplistic.” So they jumped in to offer additional testing capacity during the pandemic. As way of illustration, Bhakdi explains that while the COVID test results in one data point, their genomic testing results in six billion data points.
  • This year, Quantgene prepares to roll out a consumer-facing side of its offering called the Quantgene Serenity System, making their cancer-detecting blood tests available to the masses. Their offer to consumers is “peace of mind across eight cancers,” says Bhakdi. But they quickly realized that none of their patients would have peace of mind if they were scared of COVID-19. This prompted them to jump into the coronavirus response.
  • “We’re not a cancer company,” says Bhakdi, “we are a health protection and peace of mind company.”
  • “At the center of medicine,” says Bhakdi, “both from an economic value creation perspective and from a clinical perspective, you should have one single entity that should be the center, and that is the patient. In the end you have to provide value to the patient. The value you provide is not pay for service, or some machine or system. It is keeping the patient protected and healthy. This is just completely not happening. But that is exactly what we are building here at Quantgene.”
  • “We are building the first model that is solely 100% focused, at its economic core engine, to protect patients’ health, and that is the only thing we want to be paid for. And we want to be paid by the patient, because they are the only one that is actually interested in keeping him or herself safe and healthy.”


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