Étienne Pageau-Crevier dreamed of integrating patients’ DNA from here and abroad into their medical files, like they do for allergies and blood types. At the age of 23, he founded BiogeniQ, which has become a reference in Canada. Here’s a look at a biotech company with the intention of making a small revolution in the health world.
Étienne Pageau-Crevier dreamed of being a researcher, but when his father passed away from a heart attack in 2012, after taking a medication that is usually 60% effective, he took the news personally. “Why hadn’t we done DNA tests?” A question he asked himself while he was in the midst of studying for his PHD in genetics. A year later, he decided to take matters into his own hands and founded BiogeniQ, the first company focused on genetics in Quebec.
When the 28-year old entrepreneur looks back, he admits that the early stages of his journey were filled with failures. When he presented to Anges Québec to test out his pitch and business plan, he received some criticism. “They tore me to shreds,” he says. But instead of letting it get to him, he took notes and did his homework. “I called the people on the panel back, the same ones who had given me comments and I asked them if they would support me in my process,” he explains.
Perseverance generally pays off! In 2014, he and his partner Dr. Michel Cameron took home the national grand prize in Technology and Technical Innovations in the Défi OSEntreprendre Challenge. This prize gave him the validation he needed to fully dedicate himself to the project.
Technology that benefits health care
Today, the company has developed four saliva-collecting tests, sold over-the-counter, to target different aspects of health: drugs (pharmaceutical profile), diet, depression and attention deficit disorder with Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For example, by taking a saliva sample, BiogeniQ can determine if a drug is suitable for a person's particular needs. "We started in niche areas to address specific problems,” explains Étienne Pageau-Crevier.
« There was a business opportunity. The pharma profile was first developed to help patients avoid potential side effects, improve their quality of life and improve the effectiveness of drugs for patients. »
The example of gluten is a relevant one says the entrepreneur. Many people say they want to reduce their daily intake of gluten while only 3% of the population actually suffers from celiac disease. With BiogeniQ, it is possible to determine whether a person carries the disease gene with a simple saliva sample without changing his or her diet.
BiogeniQ has also developed 2100 tests to evaluate the genetic incidence of certain drugs and chemotherapy treatments, but a prescription from a doctor is needed to do these types of tests.
The results of the tests are recorded in the patient's file and given to a health professional who can, for example, review the dosage of a medication or propose some changes to the diet. Partnerships are also established with other specialists to centralize the whole patient's file in the same place. From Montreal to Chibougamau, Étienne Pageau-Crevier would like to propose a combined health offer.
"We want to be the largest genetics company in Canada, not a lab, but a company that adds value for the patient."
Growth on an international level
BiogeniQ intends to continue its expansion, which is already well under way with a breakthrough in German-speaking countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Étienne intends to tackle markets such as Lithuania, Estonia and Israel where competition is practically non-existent.
"We are not established in China yet, but I was there in September. Entrepreneurs should not ask themselves if they should go to China, but rather when will they go?!” says Étienne Pageau-Crevier in a laughing tone.
BiogeniQ intends to continue its growth, but never at the expense of ethics. An independent scientific committee and clinical validations enable the company to ensure that its technology works. "If we deviate from our guidelines, it would be the end of the business. No risk is taken."
BiogeniQ in Numbers:
- 20: The number of employees
- 373: The number of service points
- 2100: The number of BiogeniQ tests that can be prescribed
- 4: The number of tests available over-the-counter