Thursday, July 25, 2024

Dante Labs’ CEO Andrea Riposati Is Inspired to Bring Whole Genome Sequencing to Patients Worldwide

In the 21st century’s second decade, significant medical breakthroughs have led to disease treatments that earlier researchers hardly even envisioned. New applications for other therapies continue to emerge. Taken together, these developments are gradually bringing advances in modern medicine within reach of an increasingly larger patient pool.

Whole genome sequencing is a groundbreaking technology that has only been available on a limited basis ─ until now. Whole genome sequencing (or WGS) is the blueprint of an organism’s entire DNA structure. In essence, WGS transforms a human genome’s three billion base pairs into an expansive letter file.

The WGS technology enables physicians and researchers to scan the letters, seeking to discover diseases’ genetic mutations. Equipped with this knowledge, these medical professionals can better predict disease occurrences and create targeted treatments. In the process, “secondary findings” may highlight previously unknown disease risks or indicators. 

Andrea Riposati Puts Whole Genome Sequencing into Plain Language

Andrea Riposati is the Co-Founder and CEO of Dante Labs. Founded in New York City in 2016, Dante Labs is a whole genome sequencing firm with a different philosophy.

Specifically, Andrea Riposati says the WGS technology should continue to be available to researchers, physicians, and medical practices. However, he believes consumers should also be able to obtain a WGS report through their doctor.

How Whole Genome Sequencing Works

Because whole genome sequencing is by definition an esoteric topic, Andrea Riposati explains the technology in language non-scientists can understand. “Whole genome sequencing is the sequencing of your entire DNA. So, when we are born, we are born with our DNA, and that’s our code.

“Our code really sets all of our organs to work and also the types of diseases that we can get. How our body reacts to an external agent from medicines, to food, to nutrients; is based on DNA.

“Now, whole genome sequencing is the first technology that enables us to read the entire DNA. Historically, we’ve been only analyzing little pieces of DNA. For instance, if you had a question about your heart, you would only analyze a few genes related to the heart, or cardiology genes. If you had a question about your muscles because you have pain in your muscles, you would analyze genes related to your muscles.

“With the whole genome sequence, we look at everything, which means we have a much richer way to look at the DNA, and so, we can have an unbiased approach. It’s like looking at the universe. Instead of taking a photo of one planet or one solar system, we take the photo of the entire universe, so we understand much more about the universe,” he concludes.

Whole Genome Sequencing Can Have Different Applications

Most consumers aren’t familiar with whole genome sequencing technology’s diverse applications. Andrea Riposati emphasizes that each person orders the WGS report for a highly individualized reason.

“It’s not a solution where the same solution fits everything, like one size fits all. People can sequence their genome for different reasons. As such, they can also sequence their genome without having to learn everything about it.

The Dante Labs Mission Takes Shape

As entrepreneurs often do, Andrea Riposati co-founded Dante Labs to solve a maddening problem. A friend had great difficulty obtaining a necessary genetic test. Andrea Riposati’s awareness of the situation, and his hunch that other consumers faced the same obstacle, spurred him to develop a large-scale solution. In 2016, he co-founded Dante Labs with Mattia Capulli, a science-focused high school friend who complements Riposati’s business mindset.

Two Factors Spurred Andrea  Riposati Forward

“That shaped my drive in two ways. The first one was that I received an introduction to genomics and all of the potential of genomics and the fact that can really make a life difference for individuals with rare diseases, individuals with cancer, and generally, for everyone. I realized on one side, the potential of genomics is fantastic.

“In parallel, I also realized that it’s not available to people. There is a huge gap between the scientific advances and everything that we could do, and what’s actually available to individuals. I was in New York, my friend was in New York, and this is New York City.

“Think if you are in a third world country, think if you are in a small town, small village, anywhere in the middle of the U.S., in the middle of Australia, in the middle of Europe, think if you’re in Africa, there’s even less access and probably it’s even more expensive. So, I thought, maybe this is an opportunity to make some differences,” he remarks.

Cost Was Another Significant Obstacle

To further complicate the problem, Andrea Riposati says obtaining a WGS report has been prohibitively expensive. “Another problem is cost. Many times, people can’t get access to these technologies, but they’re very expensive just because there are a lot of middlemen, there is a lot of infrastructure in the middle, which increases the cost of these technologies and the services.

“So what we found was that we need to make sure that people can get access to whole genome sequencing in every country in the world, at the same cost as everyone else and with all the benefits,” he emphasizes.

Entrenched Industries Have Little Incentive to Change

Not surprisingly, Andrea Riposati encountered opposition to Dante Labs’ plan to release WGS results to the consumer market. He realized that the genetic testing and healthcare industries were pleased with the current system infrastructure and therefore had no desire to change it.

“First of all, I think the first obstacle that we realized was that the industry, the genetic testing industry, and also the healthcare industries, they were quite happy and satisfied with the status quo, but they were still using old technologies. So, they were not really maximizing the impact for the patients,” he explains. Therefore, Andrea Riposati recognized that changes would necessarily need to come from outside of the legacy healthcare industry.

What Fuels Dante Labs’ Growth

Looking ahead, Dante Labs’ Andrea Riposati eloquently describes the passion that drives him and his colleagues forward. Together, they continue to deliver on their mission to bring whole genome sequencing technology to the far corners of the world.

“I would say the passion of the people of the company to bring the benefits of genomics and whole genome sequencing to more people and to new settings. We work with specialty clinics, we work with organizations that take care of patients, we work with rare disease advocacy groups.

Dante Labs’ Collaboration with Its Partners

“The growth is really in collaborating with these organizations. We don’t call them clients, we call them partners, and then build solutions for them that are customized and asked for the precise needs of those organizations.

“Each one of these organizations is not just using a standard whole genome sequencing. It’s really leveraging our platform and our technology, to have access to a customized solution so that they can get the best benefits from whole genome sequencing,” Andrea Riposati concludes.

Dante Labs Looks Toward the Future

Looking ahead, Andrea Riposati acknowledges that Dante Labs has barely scratched the surface of the global WGS market. He is excited that the company has created a way to bring the technology to previously neglected market segments.

“The number of people who use genomics, and whole genome sequencing today, is so small. There is a huge 99 point, probably 5% of people out there that don’t even think about whole genome sequencing.

“Going after these markets where people have a need, but they’re neglected, it’s very rewarding. It’s in the places where people need creative solutions and full end-to-end solutions. Which is what we specialize in, so we can really reach out to more and more people,” Andrea Riposati summarizes.

About Dante Labs

New York City-based Dante Labs is a biotechnology firm specializing in whole genome sequencing technology. The company has developed over 80 reports with a focus on medical conditions, rare diseases, and wellness applications. Each report translates raw genomic data into actionable information for clinicians and individuals.

Dante Labs’ clinical and research customers benefit from custom report templates. Physicians’ offices and clinics benefit from white-label products that help to enhance patients’ experiences. Patient advocacy groups receive tailored reports that deliver personalized offerings. Dante Labs continues to meet the needs of diverse user groups around the globe.

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