By Making Genomics Testing Accessible to All
As the CEO of Dante Labs, Andrea Riposati has broadened global access to direct-to-consumer genome sequencing, reshaping the landscape of DNA testing. Since co-founding Dante Labs six years ago, the Italian entrepreneur has grown the genomics and precision medical company’s annual revenue to $100 million.
Here, we’ll explore how Dante Labs reached this $100 million milestone under Riposati’s leadership by making genomics testing accessible to all, delving into:
- The company’s commitment to accelerating science to save lives.
- What sets Dante Labs apart from other companies that offer genetic testing.
- How Riposati paved the way for the company’s growth.
- Riposati’s prediction for the Genomics Inflection Point.
- Riposati’s advice for start-ups that are looking to achieve similar success.
- Riposati’s plans for the future of Dante Labs.
Dante Labs: Accelerating Science to Save Human Lives
According to Andrea Riposati, Dante Labs’ mission is “to accelerate science to save human lives.” The company makes whole genome sequencing and genomic data analysis attainable for people everywhere by working with:
- Private clinics.
- Individuals, who can buy genetic testing kits from the Dante Labs website and book genetic counselling appointments.
Launched in Italy in 2016, Dante Labs started out offering genomic diagnostics solutions. The company subsequently expanded into therapeutics, offering customers guidance on how to optimise their health in line with their sequencing results.
One such customer is Angela, who Dante Labs helped receive a precise medical diagnosis after 25 years, during which time she hadn’t received the answers she needed.
Unfortunately, Angela’s diagnosis revealed a disease that had no approved therapy. In response, Dante Labs plumbed its extensive database for other clients who had Angela’s disease. The resulting information led to a potential drug candidate for the disease, submitted for approval to the European Medical Agency.
Stories like Angela’s have seen Dante Labs take a patient-driven, user-centric stance on its operations. The company prioritises actions that focus on its customers’ needs and accelerate healthcare solutions wherever possible.
Riposati predicts that the inevitable growth of available genomic data could have a major impact on clinical trials and therapy. He believes that the most successful pharma companies will start from diagnostics and that patients’ genomic data will drive new drug discoveries.
Actionable Genomic Sequencing
Today, Dante Labs specialises in transforming raw genomics data into user-friendly, clinically validated, actionable reports that can positively impact people’s lives. Unlike many DNA testing companies, Dante Labs sequences the whole genome and generates valuable insights into several health-related topics.
Customers who complete the MyGenome Sequencing Test gain access to the company’s range of 90 Genomics Reports. Packed with information, from neurology to hereditary cancer and autoimmune diseases, customers can use these reports to discover clinically relevant material and understand their DNA and its ramifications on their health.
In addition to detailed information on their risk of developing rare diseases or medical conditions, customers receive three personalised reports on health, fitness, and nutrition. Each contains advice on how they can manage and mitigate their unique health risks through lifestyle habits.
Customers also benefit from a dietary profile that reveals food sensitivities or allergies, nutrient deficiencies, and body composition, and a bespoke exercise plan focused on enhancing the customer’s genetic strengths and optimising their fitness.
Andrea Riposati on What Sets Dante Labs Apart
As the number of DNA testing companies grows, Riposati describes household names like Ancestry and 23andMe as “great pioneers” who have popularised consumer home genetics testing.
However, Dante Labs differs from these and other traditional genetics companies through its strong focus on sequencing the whole genome. According to Riposati, there are two main reasons for this approach:
1. Unbiased, Extensive Information
Other tests provide answers to customers’ specific questions. For example, Ancestry provides genetic answers about genealogy, and 23andMe offers insights into certain wellness traits. Meanwhile, Dante Labs extracts every possible piece of data from the sequencing process to provide a bigger-picture overview of an individual’s health.
2. Lifetime Insights
Dante Labs’ whole genome sequencing isn’t restricted to a one-time process. Standard genetics testing tends to revolve around individual transactions. With Dante Labs, customers can access their genomic data throughout their lifetimes.
This wealth of data serves as a great resource to complement an individual’s medical history, helping doctors make informed decisions about treatment choices.
In one case, a Dante Labs customer who was about to undergo treatment for breast cancer showed her genomic report to her doctor. The doctor used the report to exclude a chemotherapy drug that could have otherwise produced an adverse reaction in the patient.
Riposati hopes that customers won’t find themselves in a position to need all the information provided by the sequencing process. However, he believes having your genomic data easily accessible acts as a form of insurance against medical conditions that may arise in the future and represents a valuable asset that individuals can rely on throughout their lives.
How Andrea Riposati Helped Grow Dante Labs
In Riposati’s words, launching Dante Labs with “limited financial resources” meant keeping a tight control on investing.
The majority of the company’s first investments went into software. Riposati understood that the right software would enable the mass market to access genomics and make actionable genomic information widely available. Software could also automate a lot of processes that, several years ago, were still manual.
At first, Dante Labs outsourced its genomic sequencing and worked with various sequencing platforms. In 2019, the company internalised the sequencing process by building its own sequencing lab.
Combining the software and lab enabled the company to achieve “operational excellence” by shortening the turnaround time for processing and keeping sequencing costs low.
Dante Labs’ Covid-19 Efforts
When Covid-19 began to spread widely in Italy in 2020, Dante Labs expanded into Covid testing, realising the company had the capabilities, and therefore the duty, to help.
The company’s software allowed the analysis of tens and hundreds of thousands of samples of the virus. This analysis provided interpretational results automatically to individuals, companies, and governments.
Riposati describes feeling “surprised” that other companies in the genomics and healthcare space decided not to contribute during the pandemic, even though there was a “huge unmet need.” He is also surprised that some companies that expanded to accommodate Coronavirus testing weren’t able to run these operations profitably.
Dante Labs’ Keys to Success
Riposati believes that Dante Labs succeeded where others failed because of two elements:
- Integrating software into end-to-end solutions: Incorporating software into the lab’s diagnostic work allowed the company to provide better benefits to consumers no matter their location. During the pandemic, Covid-19 testing became possible on cruise ships by linking Dante Labs’ centralised software to quarantined ships.
- Expertise in operations and logistics: Riposati recognises that logistics are important when handling hundreds of thousands of samples. With a tight handle on logistical operations, Dante Labs could provide solutions that were advantageous for the end user and, in parallel, develop and commercialise these solutions quickly and in a cost-effective way.
The Genomics Inflection Point: Andrea Riposati’s Prediction
Dante Labs’ strength lies in the power of its software, built to achieve two goals:
- To remain platform agnostic.
- To meet the current and future needs of the genomic industry.
The company retained an agnostic approach to sequencing even after internalising the process in 2019. Its software allows collaboration with different types of data and sequencing technologies, including BGI, Illumina, and Oxford Nanopore. This way, Dante Labs can work with new players as they enter the genome sequencing market with new platforms, such as Ultima Genomics and Element Biosciences.
This is wise considering the growth of the market. Riposati believes that genome sequencing is accelerating and rapidly approaching an inflection point. Today, fewer than one million people sequence their genomes every year, but he envisages a future where millions sequence their genomes monthly.
With the inevitable explosion of genomic sequencing will come an explosion of data, and the need for a platform that can analyse it all and translate the data into user-friendly reports.
Dante Labs’ goal is to be the main player in genome sequencing data interpretation, meeting the demand that will one day arise from labs, clinics, doctors, and consumers worldwide.
Andrea Riposati’s Advice for Start-Ups
Dante Labs has been profitable since 2018, and, in 2021, the company’s annual revenue exceeded $100 million. Today, Riposati and fellow co-founder Mattia Capulli still own more than 90% of the company. The founders continue to reinvest profits into the business, primarily in software, research and development, and drug discovery.
Andrea Riposati’s main advice for early-stage founders is to focus on revenue and on building a product that people will buy. Other important areas to keep in mind include careful investments and measurable marketing.
Under Riposati’s leadership, Dante Labs chose to externalise sequencing in the beginning rather than placing early investments into building a lab. The reverse decision would have meant an empty lab with high fixed and variable costs, processing just a few samples monthly.
While, at first, externalised sequencing cost more than internal sequencing, this kind of sequencing allowed the company to be more flexible and experiment with new tests and products.
When customers continued to buy whole genome sequencing, Dante Labs realised this was the direction to take. When the company reached a sample volume big enough to run a lab at full capacity (the only way to run a lab profitably, Riposati notes), then came the investment into building a lab.
Riposati recommends limiting investments where you can add the difference, as well as staging investments (making extra investments only when you reach the financial capability).
He adds that when it comes to fundraising, it’s important to work with investors who share your beliefs. The alternative, working with investors who aren’t on the same page as you, can lead to struggles when convincing them to invest at various stages of growing the business.
Riposati believes that a smart and flexible approach to marketing is key. In this digital age, online marketing is highly measurable, and he advises running experiments across different platforms, such as Facebook and Google.
He recommends starting from a small budget and increasing this budget in the areas where you see that your strategies are working. It’s crucial to test marketing channels and adapt strategies accordingly.
For those who have a great business idea but little marketing experience, Riposati’s suggestion is to “start learning.” While it’s easy to hire an agency or an expert, studying marketing and developing a “first layer” of knowledge will enable you to be more effective when spending money on campaigns, whether working with a third-party provider or doing it yourself.
Dante Labs’ Success to Date and Plans for the Future
Dante Labs has a worldwide reach, working with clinics in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Within 6 years, the company has impacted lives in 97 countries, often supporting individuals who live nowhere near a hospital or lab.
This global approach has been critical for Dante Labs’ success as it enabled the company to remain unbiased when identifying customers. Riposati explains that many companies launch a product after identifying their target customers. They therefore only market to certain demographics or regions.
Dante Labs took a more open approach, casting a broad marketing net and letting the market decide its customer base. Riposati believes this open approach to identifying customers led to the company’s widespread success. Some of the company’s first sales came from Latvia. Others came from remote villages in the U.S. and small islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Riposati’s vision for Dante Labs is for the company to continue to grow, expanding in the U.S., further investing in software, and advancing its drug discovery programme. The company is also starting to look for a strong investor, ideally a major player in healthcare and technology, who understands the value of software in the health sector.
Riposati wishes for Dante Labs to continue the positive impact it’s had so far on people around the world and looks forward to the coming genomics inflection point.
About Andrea Riposati
Italian entrepreneur Andrea Riposati is the CEO and co-founder of Dante Labs. Riposati capitalised on his extensive experience in data analytics and product management to found the genomic sequencing company in 2016 with biotechnology expert Mattia Capulli.
Riposati has held senior roles with Muse Technologies, Amazon, PwC Strategy&, and Booz Allen Hamilton. He has also been a Harvard University teaching fellow and holds two master’s degrees, one in Business Administration (MBA) from the institution and one in Business and Economics from Milan’s Bocconi University.
Riposati has won various awards, including the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in EY Italy’s “Startup” category and two Harvard Business School Awards and he is a member of the Forbes Technology Council.