Q&A with FAST Program Graduate, Paragon Genomics
Headquartered in South San Francisco, Paragon Genomics develops and commercializes rapid, easy-to-use, and ultra-high multiplex PCR-based target enrichment solutions for the Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) and precision medicine markets. The Company’s proprietary CleanPlex™ multiplex PCR technology and custom panel design capability enable NGS customers to develop targeted sequencing assays that can be 5-10X faster and more accurate than assays based on existing methods. The accuracy, sensitivity, simplicity, lower sample input, and cost effectiveness make CleanPlexTM a game changer in the targeted sequencing field.
Q. How is Paragon Genomics’s solutions affecting the NGS space and precision medicine more broadly? What is your competitive advantage in this exciting new segment?
Paragon Genomics’s CleanPlex™ technology is a novel and advanced targeted library preparation method for Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) research and commercial labs. The cost of DNA sequencing itself has dropped 10,000 times and sequencing throughput has also increased dramatically during the past 10 years. However, the upfront targeted library preparation is still significantly lagging behind sequencing itself in terms of cost, sample throughput, and ease of use. Most of the existing targeted library prep methods are plagued by issues such as low enrichment efficiency, complex workflow, high background noise and inability to handle low sample input. These issues affect the usability of targeted sequencing and the quality of downstream sequencing data, thereby hindering the wide adoption of sequencing in clinical diagnostics and precision medicine.
CleanPlex™ technology is 10 times faster and 5 times more affordable than market leading targeted library prep methods, solving the urgent throughput and cost bottlenecks of targeted sequencing workflow. The key to our technology is a unique background cleaning method that can rapidly and effectively remove nonspecific PCR products generated during ultra-high multiplex PCR reactions. This enables us to rapidly and efficiently build DNA libraries for thousands of target DNA regions in a single PCR tube. Another advantage of CleanPlex™ is its ability to deal with DNA inputs as low as 100 pg as opposed to at least 50 ng of DNA required for competitor methods. Based upon CleanPlex™ technology, we are also developing commercial kits for single cell sequencing and liquid biopsy assays.
Q. What role did the FAST program play in the development of your commercialization strategy?
The FAST program played a very important role in the development of the Company’s commercialization strategy. Some of the advisors have direct experience in marketing and selling life science products and gave us tons of advice on ways to develop a sales pipeline, engage with KOLs, build reference accounts, and close deals. Some of them were even building startups that were a few steps ahead of us and gave us “real-time” advice. We got the chance to really learn what the key issues were in the early stage of a startup and avoided potential strategic mistakes. Some advisors also introduced us to potential customers, suppliers, and distributors etc.
Q. What value did you derive that you found most essential and also most surprising that you didn’t expect?
Building a lasting relationship with some of the advisors on a personal level is something I didn’t expect, but turns out to be essential. Even after graduating from the program, I still keep in touch with some of the advisors and look for advice on various topics. The value of the FAST program definitely goes beyond the Program itself.
Q. What changes will you be making as a result of your FAST program?
We will adjust our product development plan. Prior to the program, we were a bit too ambitious and planned to develop too many products at the same time. After taking the perspectives of the advisors, we decided to focus on a few high-priority products first.
Q. What is your next step for Paragon Genomics following your graduation?
We will officially launch our CleanPlex™ Targeted Library Kit and a cancer panel in August this year. We will also raise additional funds to build a small business development team and further commercialize the products. Our goal is to get some high-throughput reference labs to adopt our technology for their NGS assays. Part of the funds will be used for developing additional products.
Q. What advice would you give to other aspiring innovative companies like yourself that you learned through FAST as a way to help support others success?
Be open-minded and listen to each of the advisors. Sometimes, different advisors might have totally different opinions on the same topic and you need to use your own judgment to decide which one will fit best with your situation. Build trust in the relationships with your advisors and they could be your friends, allies and supporters for the long run.