It's in their DNA
AKESOgen emerges as a go-to genetics partner
Your DNA says a lot about you — just about everything, in fact.
AKESOgen helps translate what it's saying.
Launched in 2010, AKESOgen provides genetic testing and analysis for a wide range of purposes and clients – from academic research to consumer products to clinical trials.
In July, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Mark Bouzyk shared a few facts and stories about the company’s meteoric rise. Here’s what he told us.
What’s with the name
“Akeso” is the Greek goddess of curing and healing. “Gen” is, well, genetics and genomics.
You say genetic, I say genomic
Genetics examines heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics. Genomics centers on all genes and how they relate to each other in terms of structure, function, evolution and mapping of genomes. AKESOgen is engaged in all forms of testing and analysis.
Despite being launched in a recession, AKESOgen emerged just when genetic and genomic testing was becoming popular. It’s well positioned to be the go-to partner for the growing number of consumer companies seeking to use genetic tests to “personalize” their products and services. And its credibility is high: AKESOgen is accredited by the College of American Pathologists.
In July 2018, NutriSystem announced it was rolling out a personalized weight loss program guided by participants’ genetic traits. Their partner for analyzing thousands of these tests per year: AKESOgen.
The back story
In 2010, Bouzyk was director of Emory’s Center for Medical Genomics. He was encouraged by colleague Steve Warren, who chairs the university’s Department of Human Genetics, to bring his expertise to the marketplace. Bouzyk teamed up with Bob Boisjoli, a financial executive with a long track record of startup success, to launch AKESOgen.
The money angle
GRA was the only outside investor in AKESOgen. GRA’s venture development program provided a crucial early-stage grant and a later-stage loan.
National Geographic wrote about AKESOgen’s analyzing data from mere nanograms of DNA and providing enough information to create an entire image of a murder suspect. AKESOgen provides genotyping services not typically found in traditional DNA crime labs.
Jobs for Georgia
AKESOgen has 40 full-time employees and is ramping up: The number of tests it performs will more than triple this year (to 500,000). The company also provides summer internships for high school and college students.
A discovery in the founder’s past
While at Emory, Mark Bouzyk discovered two genetic markers that predict whether the cancer chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel would be toxic to a patient. The finding has led to further research and the potential for new clinical trials on how the drug is used.
Better health for those who served
In the largest genetics project ever conducted for a specific population, AKESOgen is conducting a genetic analysis of hundreds of thousands of military veterans. The U.S. Veterans Administration launched the effort – called The Million Veterans Program – to generate new insights into how to improve the health of servicemen and women.
Assessing the likelihood of Alzheimer’s
In May 2018, precision medicine company Cytox announced it had come up with a new way to verify its risk assessment test for Alzheimer’s disease. The new way: saliva samples tested and analyzed by AKESOgen.
Partial to privacy
AKESOgen destroys a person’s data after processing and analyzing genetic tests, rather than hold it or sell it.
On the brain
With AKESOgen at its side, Emory is currently conducting its largest clinical research study ever. The Healthy Aging Study is registering 100,000 participants – the initial 3,000 of which are providing specimens for testing and biobanking by AKESOgen.
If you like numbers
Akesogen has a 14,000 square-foot facility but is looking for more space. It has 12 fully operational self-contained labs and 1 biorepository. It made the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies three years in a row.
If you like rock stars
The State of Georgia named AKESOgen “Small Business Rock Star” for 2018.