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Name: Gitte Pedersen
Business: Genomic Expression
Location: Beverly, Massachusetts, U.S.
Industry: Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology
Reason for starting? I started Genomic Expression together with my brother, Morten, after our parents were diagnosed with cancer. The company got off the ground as the diagnostic partner of a $32 million “Genome Denmark” project, and I subsequently raised money to establish an independent lab in Boston and attract a dream team with tons of start-up DNA from genomics to commercial launch of drugs. The unpleasant truth is that only one out of four cancer treatments prolong life. To help rectify this, Genomic Expression finds the best drug for the patient and the best patient for the drug by sequencing RNA, which is like the software of the cell, instead of DNA, which is like the hard disk. RNA analysis can show if a tumor will respond to new immune therapies, which are the only kind of therapies that offer a potential cure. Genomic Expression was in the top 10 of the XTC competition in 2016, and I truly enjoyed meeting Richard Branson at Necker Island and all the other amazing XTC contestants.
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How do you define success? Ultimate success is happiness. What makes me happy is to use my capabilities to help others, and my capabilities are technical/scientific. So turning cancer treatment upside down and looking to genes before treatment was an obvious choice, especially because I experienced how insane the current system works — trial and error while patients die.
Biggest success: We just received a $4.2 million grant to validate our OneRNA platform in bladder cancer. That and getting into the top 10 of the Extreme Technology Competition and meeting Sir Richard Branson at Necker… my life will never be the same again :). I am competitive so I want to build the most successful company in my space. I believe that I have a significant competitive advantage over my mostly male-dominated competitors in the way that I think out of the box and rework business models to create sustainable competitive advantage for Genomic Expression. We also developed the most cost-effective and scalable platform in the industry. Finally, I want people to know about what we do, so I developed a social media platform with +45,000 Twitter followers.
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What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? We had to reinvent the whole fundraising process. I spend +1 year raising the first $200,000. And then I invented anti-crowdfunding (I set up my own site) and raised another $500,000 in 2 months. We are now reinventing the whole model for validation, so there is more to come. I saw how other women in the C-suite were sidelined and personally experienced sexist questions during my yearly performance review, while I was over-performing on any measurable standard. I decided to start a project to explore the underlying reasons for this and got top management involved, which excused the lack of women in the top with lack of interest from women. A questionnaire quickly rejected that assumption. I then decided to start my own company and stop working for men. That is now 20 years ago, and I still hear that women are being sidelined, so one of my goals is to create an organization where that does not happen.
Who is your most important role model? Richard Branson. He is super successful and puts his money where his mouth is. Entering the BVI, the guy at the pass control asks me where I am going. I answer Necker, and he start telling me that he is in Branson’s local entrepreneur program. The guy who teaches me sailing at Necker tells me that Branson funded him. Second to Richard is Bill Gates for funding development of medicines that treat 3rd world diseases.
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Edited by The Story Exchange