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Meeting our success stories / Interview with Nicolas Philippe, Founder and CEO of SeqOne

Information mise à jour le 24/07/19

“It is essential to find effective assistance and create a solid team”

Nicolas Philippe, CEO de SeqOne©David Richard

Nicolas Philippe, founder and CEO of SeqOne ©David Richard

Nicolas Philippe founded SeqOne in Montpellier in 2017. The startup develops an SaaS-mode digital platform for genomic testing, designed for personalized medicine. The company’s solution is already used by several University Hospitals and medical biology laboratories. Now with fifteen employees, the young bioinformatics startup raised €3 million in March 2019, with investment by Elaia, IRDI-Soridec, and Bpifrance. SeqOne is growing rapidly and is leaving the Cyborg startup incubator to set up operations in a 350 m² facility leased in downtown Montpellier. The company soon plans to hire an additional dozen employees to accompany its growth.

Why did you choose Montpellier?

I grew up in Normandy and went to the university in Rouen, with plans to become a mathematician. I began my thesis work in 2007, right about the time that gene sequencing was starting to take off. I rode the digital and genetics wave from that point on. I then went to University of Montpellier’s I2S doctoral school to study computer science and theoretical mathematics focusing on biology, notably regarding cancer. I came to Montpellier for my second post-doc at IRMB, the Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Biotherapy at the Saint Eloi hospital from 2011 to 2014. I stayed here as a researcher at Inserm. That’s when I understood that there was a need for some type of tool to help doctors interpret genomic data. There were no Big Data tools that could handle massive volumes of individual data in real-time. I could either choose a career as a researcher in the public sector, typically without resources, or I could build on my own idea by founding a company. I chose the startup option after talking with advisors at SATT AxLR, the Technology Transfer Acceleration Company for the eastern part of the Occitanie region (formerly Languedoc-Roussillon). Guillaume Buwalda, an engineer friend of mine who became an expert in highly secure information systems for bank data, contributed his knowledge and joined me to develop the project. SATT AxLR assisted us and provided us with 500,000 euros in funding. We hired three people, who became minority co-founders, and we set up the company at IRMB starting from that incubation period. However, a key element was still missing: the business side. That’s when we contacted Montpellier BIC. We really found everything we needed for our project in the Montpellier area: high-level research, a strong ecosystem for innovative companies, and top-quality assistance.

How did Montpellier BIC and its teams contribute to your success?

Incubation for our project at Montpellier BIC began in 2015 and continues today. It’s excellent! We first attended the Jump’In Creation program, which gave us all the keys for success: how to build a business model for the short-, medium-, and long-term; how to adopt an agile method for developing products, and much more. Montpellier BIC also helped us search for funding, such as for my first entry in the i-Lab competition, which I won in 2015. That €35,000 subsidy enabled us to order our first market study and to benefit from coaching on international aspects to start answering the fundamental question: what product for what market? A platform? A software application? What competition would we face? The coach, Jean-Marc Holder, even became our third partner! He has worked in large companies and has the ability to analyze things objectively. We learned a lot from him. Jean-Marc wanted to combine a digital focus with something truly useful.

We created our company SeqOne in 2017. After it was founded, SeqOne won the i-Lab competition, with its prestigious grant of 220,000 euros. Our product was ready: an SaaS-mode platform that retrieves massive quantities of data and transforms it into useful information for medical experts in genomics, supporting them through the elaboration of reports presented to prescribing doctors. They benefit from greater productivity, higher quality, and lower costs. Montpellier BIC helped us staff our team during that phase. BIC helped outsource the hiring process. They also helped us clarify and consolidate our pitches for presenting SeqOne. We wrote regular reports on many points, such as regulatory and export issues. Among other things, Montpellier BIC helped us apply for an “Export Pass” with Eurobiomed. At the Montpellier Capital Risque venture capital event organized by Montpellier BIC, we met Elaia, a venture capital firm with which we recently completed a significant round of funding.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to start a company?

It is essential to get the right assistance. The product you develop – that “revolutionary thing” – is really just a small part of success. The most important things are the business model, a solid team, clear vision, and funding. You need to activate the right resources, regardless of your backers and funding methods, and stay focused on your idea without deviating from the path you established. Another essential factor is being able to work with a solid team. I am lucky to have the ability to unite people who can contribute something I overlooked, creating a synergy of complementary skills among people who are dedicated and motivated by what we are doing.

How do you envision the innovative company of tomorrow in Montpellier?

I picture the company of tomorrow through what is being developed today, namely health care digitalization, genomics, and personalized medicine. These factors represent a technological revolution that is accompanied by lower production costs. We imagine a world in which everyone can access their own genetic sequencing from birth. This will make it possible to prevent and diagnose rare diseases, and even detect them through non-invasive prenatal procedures. We will also be able to develop personalized medicine, for example, by identifying a cancer tumor’s genetic modifications in order to adapt treatment. The medical framework for all these solutions is highly secure, with patients being able to control their genomic sequencing, above all designed as a medical tool. Ecology is another important direction for innovation. Mankind is destroying its planet. Digitalization in the field of ecology is something that can help us.

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