The road to success for startups is one that is typically paved with various twists and turns. Whilst a company may start out with an original idea, in time circumstances often dictate a sharp lurch into unexpected territory. Sometimes further tweaks are still needed to the business model before a successful approach is found.
Not so for diagnostics company Blueprint Genetics.
"This has been going alarmingly as we had planned in the beginning," CEO Tommi Lehtonen explains, with a smile. "We are executing the plan that we made. No big changes."
Blueprint Genetics first introduced its DNA sequencing method in 2013 to facilitate hereditary disease detection, setting its sights initially on cardiovascular diseases.
Swiftly gaining a foothold in the Nordic markets, the company's customer base soon expanded to hospitals and clinics in Switzerland, Italy, the UK, Australia and Canada.
The next step was the USA.
After establishing an office in San Francisco, Blueprint Genetics obtained its CLIA accreditation in April this year, effectively receiving the green light to do business Stateside.
US approach: "Faster, Better, Cheaper"
Successfully entering the more mature and competitive US market has not been without its challenges.
"The sales process is much more complex than what we see with typical business-to-business," Lehtonen states. "In the US the physician orders the test, but the hospital doesn't take care of the payment. There are some exceptions, but it's usually third party billing."
To counter this, Blueprint Genetics maintains a low maximum out of pocket price that the patient needs to pay if their insurance happens to not cover the test.
"The proverb in healthcare is 'Faster, Better, Cheaper'," Lehtonen says. "We do just that: quality, in terms of getting the right result; low pricing; fast turn around time and clinical insight with reporting."
Nonetheless, the most important hurdle for the company to clear when breaking into the US market has been getting their name known.
"We have just started in the US," Lehtonen explains. "We really want to increase sample flow – it's been selling and selling and selling."
The best way to reach their potential customers has been by attending medical conferences all over the country. A lot of them.
"This fall we have gone to 20-25 clinical seminars," Lehtonen continues. "Practically each week someone is in a conference where we have a booth and a presentation."
Expanding the potential
The other significant development for Blueprint Genetics over the past 12 months has been upgrading to a significantly larger sequencing platform.
"Earlier this year we were maxed out in capacity on the previous platform," Lehtonen explains. "We can't just expand capacity on demand when the samples and orders come in. If you want to grow, you need more capacity."
And grow they will. Thanks to Tekes-funded R&D, the company is expanding the pool of hereditary diseases that they can detect.
"We are going to ten-fold our product portfolio in March 2016," Lehtonen says. "We will be addressing hereditary disorders in neurology, metabolics, immunology, hearing, eye disorders, kidneys, livers, lungs, haematology and connective tissues."
Not only is their offering set to grow, but also their customer base.
"The Middle East is a very good market for genetic testing, that's why we are expanding there next year," Lehtonen says. "But it's not about getting the maximum amount of markets, it's more about good markets. 2016 is going to be a big year for us."
CEO Tommi Lehtonen
Tel. +358 44 7700 411
tommi.lehtonen (at) blueprintgenetics.com
Text: James O'Sullivan
Photo: Blueprint Genetics