Our genetic code includes key information about our health: from congenital diseases to our predisposition to certain types of cancer and our level of protection against certain syndromes. Understanding people's genomes can provide personalized information about how the environment can affect each individual and allow conscious decisions to be made to improve health. However, currently only the wealthiest people can afford a genetic test, which increases inequalities in access to healthcare.
To reduce this problem, young Brazilian doctor, biochemist, pharmacist and geneticist Ricardo di Lazzaro has created the biotech start-up Genera. Specializing in personal genomics, Di Lazzaro aims to make genetic tests cheaper and more widely available so that people can make decisions about their health based on objective DNA data. Thanks to Genera, MIT Technology Review in Spanish has selected Di Lazzaro as one of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020.
"Our test is the cheapest in the world, with a price of 40 dollars (about 35 euros), because we developed everything in Brazil, including research and development," Di Lazzaro claims. His genetic tests sequence the entire genome and discover predispositions to diseases, responses to drugs and information about each person's ancestors. Thanks to this information, Genera is able to customize drugs to suit the reality of each user, an approach known as pharmacogenomics.
Like most consumer genetic tests on the market, "anyone can buy them from home and do the saliva test themselves," before sending them to the lab to have their genome analyzed, Di Lazzaro explains. His objective is "to bring genetic advances in genetics to people so that they can have more health and self-knowledge."
Genera has already analyzed more than 100,000 genomes and is growing throughout Brazil. Di Lazzaro is looking to expand the company to all of Latin America because he believes that, "in the long term, everyone will get a genetic test just like they do with blood tests now."
Candy Patricia Flores, the executive director of the Agrobioteg Innovation Park (Mexico) and a member of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020 jury, recognizes the potential of Di Lazzaro's approach to "make genetic testing accessible to the public."