Sam’s YES path to entrepreneurship
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated and then I did YES. It clicked with me because I love science and I really wanted to use my scientific knowledge to help people commercialise science and get it out to the public where it benefits people.
“I could go so far as to say that without YES, I might not have started my own business. I really do see it as kind of a turning point for me.” I would absolutely recommend YES. It opens your eyes to other opportunities outside academia or industry.”
After learning to identify and commercialise IP, Sam combined her genetics background with her new skills to co-found PlayDNA™ with her partner, Stuart, in 2010, producing bespoke artwork based on a customer’s DNA. It appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den and was a crucial stepping stone to FitnessGenes Ltd.
Inspiration for FitnessGenes
Sam, Stuart and their friend Dr Dan Reardon sparked another idea in 2013. Dan was a medic working in A&E. His interest in fitness and body building led to him answering queries online related to training and diet. On hearing about PlayDNA™ and genetic profiling, Dan told Sam and Stuart that DNA profiling would be of great interest to his clients, helping them form the best way to eat and train.
All three decided to combine their expertise and create a business. Nutritionist Mark Gilbert came on board and using the platform developed for PlayDNA™, MuscleGenes™ (its original name) was born.
Demand for the service was initially so high that the team had to take it off sale after two weeks as they couldn’t keep up with processing orders. “That’s when we realised the real potential of it,” says Sam, who is Chief Scientific Officer.
Two years on, MuscleGenes™ is now a sub-brand focusing on the core audience of body builders with FitnessGenes™ appealing to a wider audience.
Sam, Dan, Stuart and the team at FitnessGenes™ have developed valuable processes, products, services and branding. Sam’s background ensures they assert all rights to this intellectual property.
Funding raised, jobs created
In October 2015 FitnessGenes™ won £228k of Smart Scheme funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, bringing total investment raised so far to £1M. The team now numbers 15.
Academic partners include the University of Birmingham and Loughborough University. Its new Smart Scheme funding will let FitnessGenes™ and Prof Jean-Baptiste Cazier, Director of the new Centre for Computational Biology at Birmingham, apply bioinformatics expertise to analyse genetic and lifestyle data, producing scientifically designed, personalised, actionable recommendations to help people achieve health and fitness goals rapidly.