Geneticure Entrepreneurs Return To Rochester Roots With Mayo Accelerator Spot
For the two Rochester-born founders of Eden Prairie-based personalized medicine startup Geneticure LLC, setting up shop in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator has been something of eye-opener—they say the return home has revealed how much Rochester’s bio-business “eco-system” has grown.
Brothers Scott Snyder, Geneticure’s CEO, and Eric Snyder, its chief operating officer and a University of Minnesota scientist, were both born and raised in Rochester, and like many other ambitious young people in the Upper Midwest, found it necessary to relocate to the Twin Cities to kick-start their careers. And now with their company to commercialize a “pharmacogenomics” test panel aimed at better treating hypertension, they’re at least partially back to their home turf.
They returned to find a changed atmosphere where a supportive group of health care entrepreneurs are busy creating what Scott Snyder called a self-sustaining startup scene reminiscent of a small-scale Silicon Valley.
“It’s fun to see, because as a native growing up there, after being in the Twin Cities for almost 20 years, you can see how the city has grown and changed and has evolved into more of a startup-friendly environment,” he told TCB. “It’s pretty cool.”
After launching in 2012, the Snyders added several Mayo Clinic-connected officers and advisors, and so the pull toward Rochester was already there. It became more than a feeling in January when they announced they had established a satellite office at the downtown Accelerator, lured not only by hometown roots and the startup synergy, but also by the access the incubator can provide to Mayo clinicians.
“There are some people who are kind of leading the charge in the evolution in Rochester, and I’d say that (Accelerator Director) Xavier Frigola is one of them,” he said. “The scene there is growing. There’s Rochester Rising, a publication that focuses on the ecosystem there, and competitions like Walleye Tank that introduce entrepreneurs to each other and reinforce what’s happening in the city.”
Another competition that Geneticure recently participated in was the most recent MN Cup, where it was named a semifinalist thanks to its pitch: personalized-medicine genetic tests to help doctors get hypertension (and perhaps other) chronic diseases under control more quickly and with less cost through pharmacogenomics – the field of applying genetic information to pharmacology.
Its product, the Geneticure Hypertension Panel, analyzes 14 genes that have been found to provide the strongest associations with blood pressure control, including genes that are important in sodium regulation, response to diuretics, drug metabolization and receptors essential in the regulation of heart rate and contractility of the heart. Based on the results from an algorithm, doctors can immediately determine the best course of drugs for each individual, rather than going through the costly and time-consuming trail-and-error process which is now necessary.
With 78 million Americans suffering from high blood pressure, Geneticure claims its genetic test panel has the potential to save billions of dollars now wasted in treating hypertension simply because doctors typically use the same drug and dose as a starting point for every patient, then correct prescriptions over time based on how well patients do or don't react to it. Meanwhile, many patients suffer through months of useless prescriptions and repeat office visits before getting their condition under control.
Geneticure has several Mayo Clinic connections, including chief clinical officer Thomas Olson, a Mayo associate medical professor and consultant in cardiovascular diseases; board advisor David Herbert, former chief administrative officer of Mayo Medical Laboratories; and fellow advisor Bruce Johnson, a Mayo professor of medicine and physiology.
The Accelerator is operated by Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI). Incubator director Frigola says Geneticure’s presence in the downtown space is welcome.
“Their business checks off all boxes we want to see, including enhancing patient care, reducing costs, basically getting patients better sooner,” he said. “Another important thing is that they already have a large relationship with a health care provider, which provides validation that the market is interesting in what they’re doing.”
That relationship is with Fairview Health Services, which announced in January it is teaming up with Geneticure to conduct a yearlong, 800-person study that will analyze how its hypertension test panel technology can be translated into actual clinical results. Fairview said the research trial would begin for qualified patients in the coming weeks. Those patients will receive care at one of Fairview’s eight clinics until January of next year.
Snyder said the company has raised around $1.1 million so far with investors including the University of St. Thomas, Stanford University, RAEDI, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and a handful of angel investors.