“Genetics are being prostituted economically”

Medicine is also linked to technology and the gateway that the Mobile World Congress represents for those who combine the two fields to offer a final product. It is the case of the Catalan Exheus, a spin-off of the Hospital Sant Pau and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, that from the MWC are taking advantage of this week to attract new investors interested in the service that they already offer and market: RNA-based analytics that break with the genetic study of DNA to be able to ensure, more precisely, the health of the person who is submit to one of these tests.

“The case of Angelina Jolie has done a lot of damage”

Pol Cervera, co-founder of Exheus, It explains what it consists of, but first it places us in the medical and economic panorama that has become the interest of societies in developed countries to have information on our genomes that can resolve doubts such as heavy digestions, confirm if we are allergic to lactose or gluten, or if we can suffer from cancer in the short or long term. “You can have some genes related to diabetes, but it does not mean that you suffer from it. If these are not expressed, you do not have it. An example is the case of Angelina Jolie who had potential genes for breast cancer and decided to remove them. Angelina, from my point of view, was given a dangerous media point since she did not evaluate whether they were dangerous or not, she kept the photograph,” concludes Cervera.

POLO EXHEUS / Photo: Montse Giralt

Difference Between DNA and RNA

For this reason, the co-founder of Exheus is blunt in the business that has been generated around him: “Genetics are being prostituted economically. We cannot dedicate ourselves to doing DNA analytics to draw big conclusions through the probabilities rather, what is most necessary is to know what is happening at that time and all based on scientific studies, like the ones we started 20 years ago”. Indeed, the fall in costs has turned DNA analysis into a huge opportunity, with a exponential growth that confirms Encarna Guillén, president of the Spanish Association of Human Genetics. The $31.8 billion figure will be the value of the global genetic testing market in 2027, according to a report by Global Market Insights. The development of technology has democratized access to DNA analysis, turned it into a consumer product and experts are already starting to issue a warning that the market has to regulate itself and explain it better. In 2018, the number of people who underwent a consumer DNA test was equal to the sum of the numbers from all previous years, according to Harvard’s MIT on the sciences.

They use Artificial Intelligence

From the stand that Exheus has in Mobile, we asked him the same question: Can’t RNA, instead of DNA, also become a misunderstood or “prostituted” business, as its co-founder, Pol Cervera, has previously cited? He answers us himself: “We analyze more than 17,000 genes in the blood to see the state of the body in terms of metabolism, inflammation, infections and cellular aging, among others.. That is what it means when we say that we are an RNA test, we see how genes are expressed. Keep in mind that if I myself have warned before about how the business cannot be understood, it is because we have to start from the basis that genetics is not deterministic since it has a 10% impact on our system, what is interesting is knowing how it is expressed from other factors such as the type of life we ​​have. With a genetic test they will tell you if you have a predisposition, for example, to be allergic to lactose. Now, it is about seeing if they are expressed abnormally, we analyze the activation of these genes through RNA, that is, all the information that is inside the genes and how we use this information. Genetics predisposes you, but it does not mean that you are like that. We no longer talk about probabilities, but how your genes are expressing themselves and what information is activated that tells us if things are going well or badly,” he underlines.


Next market: Latin America

Currently, Exheus has passed two rounds of investment, the first close to 300,000 and the second of 660,000 which with public money have reached 900,000. They are already selling and invoicing and soon they will make the leap in Latin America. Currently, that they democratize this technology so that everyone can have access is the first in the world. The company has a medical part and a bioinformatics part that performs all the statistics and mathematics behind it.

The system of this RNA is based on Artificial Intelligence, AI: “We draw blood and through the Next Generation Sequency we extract the RNAgoes through our quality control and our AI algorithms compare this base with a healthy database where we can see which metabolic pathways or genes are out of the ordinary,” Cervera explains. Having an Exheus test costs 400 euros.

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