We shortlisted Golden Helix for their consistent innovation and dedication to their customers’ success. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Andreas Scherer, the President, and CEO of Golden Helix, to learn more about how they will continue this prioritization and their growth plans for 2019 and beyond.
First, can you walk us through your biotech solutions?
In short, we support and streamline the clinical decision-making process when it comes to Next-Gen Sequencing. Golden Helix’s entire clinical pipeline consists of software products that are able to take the data coming out of sequencer and support analytics workflows all the way to the generation of a clinical report. Our products are deeply integrated from secondary analysis to the generation of clinical reports and the storage of this data in a data warehouse. Let me give you a bit more background.
Our secondary analysis solution identifies all variants in a sample, such as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) mutations or complex variants such as Copy Number Variants (CNVs). We have an industry-leading solution for detecting CNVs in Next-Gen Sequencing (NGS) data. This solution is essential because it allows our customers to stay within the NGS paradigm. They don’t have to perform additional tests with microarrays or MLPA. Instead, they can stay with their original sample, sequence it with an NGS sequencer. Our secondary pipeline gives them a very comprehensive understanding of all the genetic variation present in a particular sample.
Once the user has identified these mutations, the tertiary analysis can be performed. In this stage, we are focusing on the clinical interpretation of all the data that surfaced in the secondary analysis. With the help of Golden Helix software, our customers analyze variants through our VarSeq Suite. This software provides a powerful filtering and annotating engine for filtering through large variants of datasets and generating inclusive, clinical-grade reports that are completely customizable and adhere to ACMG guidelines.
Your business model is what sets you apart in the marketplace – could you shed some light on this?
Many of our competitors have adopted a per-sample model which really only works at the beginning of a user’s relationship with the product. Once the client starts using the solution, the per-sample charges add up to significant amounts. Golden Helix does not do this. We have a very affordable, flat-fee model that allows our customers to use the software as much as needed without any surcharges. From a P&L perspective, it is straightforward to do business with us because it is one predictable number per year. Additionally, all training, support and new updates for the software are included in this annual cost. The idea behind our business model is that we want to aid our customers’ success when using our software, and allow them to use the software as much as they require.
Additionally, we want to help them drive down the price points for conducting their services which is very important in our space. Here, it is all about precision medicine and the enablement of labs to perform analytics on NGS data. The prices for these tests must come down for the broad adoption of NGS. Golden Helix takes part in this by making our solutions available in a very convenient, affordable way.
What sense do you get of the challenges the biotech solutions space?
We are at a point where precision medicine is taking off. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has started to reimburse testing labs for NGS-based tests. This is a game changer for our industry because this means other significant players will follow suit, eventually. If you view this from a clinical lab or hospital’s perspective, there is only one consequence: the number of samples that need to be assessed and clinically evaluated will go up significantly. It is safe to assume that growth rates will reach the double digits or more. Yet, in the labs, we’re not doubling or tripling the workforce simply because there are not that many people with the necessary training and formal qualifications.
The answer to this challenge is automation, and that is where Golden Helix comes in. We cover the whole value chain. Our products make the individual analyst much more efficient, increasing their throughput dramatically. In addition, we positively impact quality, as our software takes on a lot of the tedious legwork and crosschecking. Through all of this, we are supporting the industry in becoming more productive, efficient, and able to deal with this wave of increasing samples.
What is the future for Golden Helix?
We are a very innovative company. In the last three years, we have launched numerous new products to increase our offerings and are continuing to do so. Earlier this fall, we were awarded a Phase II SBIR Grant from the NIH to further develop and refine proprietary algorithms for detecting copy number variants and other structural variants from NGS data in a clinical context. We are also enhancing our AI capabilities. We already embed AI capabilities selectively in our solutions. As part of our roadmap, we will further enhance our capabilities for AI supported solutions. However, we will allow our customers to always be in control of the diagnostic process as these AI capabilities become more and more visible to the end user.
We will also continue to push on the infrastructure side with performance and scalability. As discussed earlier in this interview, our space is rapidly growing, and a solution will have to be able to support that growing number of samples. For the past 20 years, we have managed to stay ahead of the curve and plan to stay that way for 2019 and beyond!