#Asia #Japan 114: This Japanese Startup Is Bringing The Human Genome to The Mass Market

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Right now, it looks like the most profitable business models that are emerging from the mapping of the human genome are not in the field of medicine, but in a variety of B2C business models focused on consumer marketing.

That may be a surprising claim, but if the past 40 years of life sciences have taught us anything, it’s that our genetic information will be both more valuable and harder to understand than we expect it to be.

Today, I’d like you to meet Tomohiro Takano, CEO and founder of Awakens.  Awakens is opening up the genome to make it more accessible and understandable to you and me. They are designing a genetic marketplace that will serve both B2B and B2C clients, and they are working with other startups to develop applications that will leave some readers impressed and excited, and others appalled and concerned.

So it’s probably best to let Tomo tell you about it.

Show Notes

Why people will share their DNA information
How to choose your customers as a genetics startup
Why developing B2B clients is different in Japan and the US
Why people you would not suspect want access to your genome
The true accuracy of consumer DNA analysis
DNA for dating and social networking
What an accelerator must do to validate a startup
Why there are so few life sciences startups in Japan

Links from the Founder

Everything you wanted to know about Awakens
Tomo’s genetics blog (Japanese)
Follow Tomo on twitter @mr3tiago
Friend him on Facebook
Genome Link Online Hackathon

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Transcript
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

Today, we’re going to be talking about mining the genome, because if the last 40 years of life-sciences has taught us anything, it’s that the information we take from our DNA is always more valuable than we think it’s going to be, and why wouldn’t it be? I mean, innovation and efficiency, and profit, and money in general are all just proxies for some greater and deeper human need. Most innovation is a more efficient means to the same ends, but DNA, well, that’s different. That is who we are. It literally defines us, so naturally, it’s something we all care about deeply whether we know it or not.

Today, I’d like you to meet Tomohiro Takano, CEO and founder of Awakens, and Awakens is trying to open up the genome and to make it more accessible and understandable to you and me. How exactly they plan on making money doing that, well, Tomo will explain in just a moment. It’s a combination of a B2B and B2C DNA marketplace that some listeners will find exciting and some will find it infuriating.

But you know, Tomo tells that story much better than I can. So let’s get right to the interview.

 [Interview]

Tim: Cheers!

Tomohiro: Cheers! Thanks.

Tim: We are sitting here with Tomo Takano of Awakens, a genomic startup here in Tokyo, so thanks for sitting down with us.

Tomohiro: Yeah, it’s my pleasure to be here today.

Tim: Okay, let’s do a quick overview of what Awakens is. So you developed the Genome Link software and you say you have a vision of everyone being able to access their own DNA data. Why would we want to do that?

Tomohiro: We create a service called Genome Link which is the kind of API solution for companies to develop their own DNA personalized products. So we see that in the near future, in five or 10 years, every single people will have access to their own DNA data then make use of that data for like, they are choosing in fitness, nutrition, food, medicine.

Tim: Does Awakens do the DNA testing as well or do you just link to work that’s been done by like, Ancestors or 23AndMe?

Tomohiro: Right, so at this point, we are simply focusing on existing genetic testing users, so we don’t do the sequencing operation because in United States, there is already 10 million genetic testing users,

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