Business Category : Environmental, medical and welfare
Created on 2018-3-27
Updated on 2018-3-27
CEO Tomohiro Kubo
Tokyo based startup to incubate seeds or ideas invented by academia into tangible business materials. The first challenge will be developing a novel system of prenatal diagnosis.
A small number of excellent experts engage in the research
Prenatal screening test is a procedure used to screen fetus’ congenital or genetic disorders during pregnancy. Currently in Japan, these tests are performed only on limited number of pregnant women such as those with delayed child bearing. But in the United States and in Europe, it is becoming one of common tests during pregnancy. Because existing prenatal screening test may affect mother or fetus, it is required to accept risks when taking such test for diagnosis at the same time. We introduce TL Genomics Co., Ltd., a development-oriented venture company, which has succeeded in reducing such risks close to zero by developing a new prenatal diagnosis. We interviewed CEO Tomohiro Kubo regarding their efforts.
Office is located on the campus of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Koganei city
Current prenatal screening tests have been conducted by cell free DNA analysis from mother’s blood to determine mainly the probability of fetus having Down syndrome. For definitive diagnosis, amniocentesis must be undertaken. Because a needle is directly inserted into the uterus in such procedure, there is a risk that the fetus may be harmed. “We developed a new approach to get fetus’ genome information by isolating fetus’ cells circulating in mother’s blood. This method provides significant advantages. It does not affect mother’s body or pose any risks of miscarriage because it only requires a blood draw. Also, it can detect disorders accurately at the level of definitive diagnosis because it checks fetus’ genome itself. The number of disorders that can be detected reaches several hundred types, including developmental disorder, which draws much attention recently. I believe the advantage of knowing your child’s disorder in early stage, even if it is not very serious, and being able to get appropriate support is huge.
The company’s secret technology is closely watched by related industries.
Concerning the prenatal screening test, issues over bioethics has been raised along with the expression of “screening of life”. “Startup companies in the biotechnology sector like us consistently face with ethical issues because we deal with genome, the “book of life." But I think it is important to face with the issue head-on, instead of avoiding it. As technology advances, ethics will enter a new phase and make advancement as well. In that sense, ethics is dynamic, not static. When the prenatal diagnosis reaches new heights, how far can we see and to what extent we accept it ? We will strive to establish a structure that would expand range of options and capable to respond to chosen options.”
Even though TL Genomics’ technologies are in the R & D phase, they are focusing on global expansion, rather than just the Japanese market, where the prenatal screening test itself is treated very cautiously. Because the prenatal screening test is very important, it must be able to offer accurate diagnosis to everyone. And to realize that, we should do it using an automated process.. We are planning to offer it as an established service in a year from now (As of January, 2018).”
Technological excellence is showcased in their patient procedures.
According to Mr. Kubo, the prenatal diagnosis is one of the initial efforts for TL Genomics, and their future enterprising body should rather be the system that incubate seeds or ideas invented by academia universities into commercially usuful technology. “We specialize in technologies, not in testing. So, we would like to license out our technology to outside testing companies. We are focusing on a lot of seeds that are staying at rest in universities. It is often the case that it does not go well when one tries to incubate such seeds to commercial application. That is because the goal of the research done at universities is to pursue originality. But application date are also required by the industrial side. I believe that there are plenty of business opportunities in such gaps.”
TL Genomics, their eyes are on the future.