April 26, 2023

Episode 2: Democratizing Sequencing to Address Genomic Data Inequality and Improve the Future of Medicine

Element Biosciences is on a mission to democratize next-generation sequencing and help scientists overcome a major lack of diversity in genomic studies. A recent article in Nature Medicine cited that as of June 2021, 86 percent of genomics studies have been conducted in individuals of European decent, leaving researchers without adequate data representing our global population. The promise of genomic research equates to improving our understanding of disease etiology, early detection and diagnosis, drug design and clinical care. Without representation of all populations, we’re missing a big piece of the puzzle that allows the advancement of health for humanity. By reimagining DNA sequencing and lowering costs to make it more accessible, Element is removing these barriers and enabling new discoveries that have the potential to dramatically improve health outcomes around the world.

Five years ago, Molly He met with two of her former Illumina colleagues at the UC San Diego library to create a company focused on making reagents for other sequencing companies. “And then we thought, ‘Why don’t we make our own platform?’” Molly explains how the group’s naivete was integral in this business pivot because they never could have imagined the challenges they’d encounter along the way. “It was all worth it in the end,” says Molly. They also never dreamed of competing against the NGS market leader Illumina, but “competition makes innovation,” Molly says.

Molly was born and raised in China and came to UCLA for graduate school. She was unsure at the time if science would be her chosen career path. but she credits having a great mentor who taught her the mystery and excitement behind solving a scientific problem. At Element, her passion for health equity is what drives her and her team to bring sequencing to areas of the world that don’t have the means to buy expensive instruments. “It takes not only the technology innovation but the social revolution to get there,” Molly says. Increasing access to sequencing ultimately expands the library of genomic data available and benefits everyone.

Element now offers an option for its AVITI System that provides high quality sequencing for $200 a genome and even lower volume-based pricing for customers with high throughput. On April 19, 2023, Element announced it had signed distribution agreements with companies based in Israel, South Korea, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates to help bring its AVITI System to more customers around the world.

You can follow Molly He and Element Biosciences on LinkedIn.

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