1) Who are you?
I am Semira Gonseth Nusslé, CEO of Genknowme SA, and mother of two. I am an executive in an academic institution, Unisanté, formerly the CHUV (in the top ten hospitals in the world) and a Swiss researcher, medical doctor by training, board-certified in prevention and public health. I have several years of clinical experience in prevention, in particular for tobacco smoking. My husband and co-founder, Sébastien Nusslé, is a PhD graduate in biostatistics, specialized in gene versus environment interactions in fish populations. After a four-year postdoctoral research stay in UC-Berkeley, he became the director of the Swiss Fisheries Advisory Office, then number three in one of the largest environmental consulting firms in Switzerland.
We developed this business idea during our four-year postdoctoral stay at the University of California San Francisco and Berkeley, where I investigated the epigenetic links between cancer and lifestyle risk factors. There, we also developed our entrepreneurial skills by joining the UC Berkeley’s incubator (SkyDeck). We moved back to Lausanne in 2017 to materialize this project in Switzerland with the help of Innovaud, the Office of transfer of technology of the CHUV-UNIL, and InnoSuisse.
We feel extremely motivated to carry out this project because we are confident it has the potential to become a game changer in healthcare and we believe in its great success potential. In our opinion, it will inherently revolutionize the management of preventive medicine and pave the way for a new generation of epigenetic tests that will improve diagnosis and monitoring in medicine and public health, while providing cost control.
2) What is the story behind GenKnowMe?
Genknowme is dedicated to transform breakthrough research and clinical science into actionable personalized tools. We are developing a simple blood test that identifies key biogenetic markers to track, maintain, and improve biological age and longevity. Epigenetics is what enables every cell to act specifically despite having identical DNA sequence. Epigenetic information includes not only genetics, but also gene expression and regulation – unlike genetics, epigenetics is actionable. Studies reveal that lifestyle changes have a substantial effect on gene expression and regulation. Genknowme has identified key biological markers involved in the genetic expression of aging regulation and has developed a product designed to help everyone age more healthily. In the future, we expect that epigenetic testing will be globally used as a comprehensive health assessment, identifying individual risk factors, chronic diseases prognosis and offering personal recommendation and medication to stay healthy and optimize everyone’s youth capital. For the first time in health prevention programs, individuals can do more than hope for the best, or fear the worst – they can act and monitor the effects of their daily choices.
3) What is your company motto?
What drives us is the will to be part of the epigenetic revolution and to democratize scientific knowledge for the greater good.
4) What are your company’s biggest challenges?
Epigenetics is a very innovating and promising scientific field. Therefore, explaining how breakthrough research and clinical science can be transformed into actionable personalized tools will be one of our major challenges. Another challenge is that epigenetics, being associated with genetics, raise similar concerns regarding personal data & privacy management. Our test is not DNA sequencing, as we only analyze specific epigenetic markers that are additions to some parts of the DNA. Only the specific markers needed to measure biological age and the factors that impact it will be analyzed. Nevertheless, we will be addressing these issues with the highest standards and a strong commitment. Additionally, we will be looking for external third-party independent auditors to regulate our security procedures.
5) What made you want to join the InnoPeaks program?
The InnoPeaks program offers first-class mentoring, masterclasses, a strong network of business partners and collaborators, access to the most active VCs and Angel investors in our industry, as well as an amazing infrastructure, among other advantages. In just one week, we already had numerous valuable introductions with leaders, entrepreneurs and CEOs from the Insurtech, Digital Health & Fintech industries, making this a way in a very unique ecosystem in Switzerland.
Crédit photos : ©Zuzanna Adamczewska-Bolle