本文是校友访谈系列的第五篇，这一期接受采访的校友是Doohyun(DH) Park，3billion公司联合创始人。3billion inc是一家利用基因测序技术帮助罕见病患者查找病因的初创企业。这篇访谈中，DH讲述了3billion inc的由来，比较了塔夫茨大学和哥伦比亚大学教育的不同，为希望创业的同学提供了经验，并推荐了几处首尔的景点。
采访：王嘉璇 （Jessie Wang），Yiqing Li
Please briefly introduce yourself and your background.
My name is Doohyun, Tufts class of 2011, School of Engineering. I studied Biomedical engineering at Tufts. After I finished Tufts, I went to Columbia for my M.S degree in BME. I came back to Korea after Columbia and worked at a Macrogen as an overseas sales specialist for next generation sequencing products. After 3 years, two of my coworkers and I spun out from Macrogen and started 3billion to help millions of rare disease patients. We provide direct to patient rare disease screening through whole genome analysis.
3 Billion Inc 成员, 右一为DH © Jaehun Lee, DH Park
Can you please share us your reasons or vision that led you to founding your own company?
I’ve always been interested in taking technology out of labs and bringing it to consumers. I wrote my graduate school application about how there are so many great technologies that never get commercialized into products.
When I was working at Macrogen, our team developed four different B2C products, but they were never introduced into the market. Macrogen’s core business model was B2B and the management was not very interested in B2C products. However, I knew that the genetics market was moving from the research side into consumer and clinical side. We are seeing more consumer genetics products such as 23andme or Non-invasive prenatal tests in the market. So we pitched this idea for a rare disease screening to our management. At first, they offered to build an in-house team to develop and run this product. We rejected that offer because we knew our product wouldn’t get much support from the management like the other four products we developed in-house. Next offer was to build a subsidiary company, but we also rejected this offer as well. We didn’t think it would provide any incentive for us. Even if we succeeded, Macrogen would reap the benefit of that success. We told Macrogen that we want to spinout as a separate entity. So we started 3billion as a spin out company, receiving seed funding from Macrogen in exchange for share of our equity.
We officially stared 3billion November 1st of 2016. Two other cofounders are engineers and I’m in charge of marketing and sales. We have finished building our prototype and starting our closed- beta service to 100 rare disease patients this month. We expect to officially launch our product at the end of 2017.
How did you get interested in the rare disease business?
We have the technology to read the genome and pin point specific mutations that lead to certain diseases, but the $1,000 price tag of genome analysis is still quite expensive for everyday consumers. We wanted to find a very specific target customer group with the willingness to pay. So we decided to provide this service to rare disease patients. There are more than 350 million rare disease patients around the world and 1 out of 10 people suffer from a rare disease in the US. For 30% of these patients, it takes them over 5 years to get a correct diagnosis. They go from one doctor to another and no one can tell them why they are sick. Imagine the financial and emotional burden these patients go through. The interesting thing is 80% of rare diseases have a genetic origin, so if we look at their genome, it’s quite simple to pin point to the cause of their condition.
How does this process actually work to get from the idea that you may want a test to a diagnostic?
What 3billion provides is a direct to patient rare disease screening service. The patients can order our kit from their home and we sent them a saliva collection kit. From their saliva sample, we analyze their genome and provide them with the list of disease causing mutations present in the genome and all the diseases information related to that mutation.
For these rare disease patients, it saves them years of suffering and living in the unknown; the faster they receive a diagnosis, faster they can be treated. In addition, it saves the medical system millions of dollars of unnecessary spending that would have been spent for the patient during their journey for a diagnosis. On average, $22,000 is spent on a single rare disease patient to find a diagnosis. This cost can be saved by receiving our screening as early in the diagnosis process.
Tell us about your graduate life in Columbia and were there any big differences in comparison to Tufts that struck you the most?
Columbia was a totally different experience compared to Tufts. Because of its location within Manhattan, the campus life is more city-oriented compared to Tufts’. What makes Columbia great is its location within the NYC. Most of the social life didn’t occur on campus but mostly in other part of the city. Also, you interact with more diverse crowd. You had more chances to hang out with young professionals and students from other schools.
Academically, Columbia was more entrepreneurially focused compared to Tufts. Most of my classmates went on to work in banking or consulting, whereas at Tufts, most of my classmates went on to med-school or into research. However, Columbia didn’t have a family like environment within the program like Tufts. One of my favorite memories from Tufts is playing soccer and basketball with the BME faculties and going out for beer after. Tufts BME community is still very well connected and I’m in touch with many of my classmates and professors.
DH（右一）在Tufts的青葱岁月 © DH
Any advice for Tufts undergraduates who are might be considering running their own company?
Jump in and do it. You don’t need to have groundbreaking ideas to start. I think the great thing about start up is that it allows you to test small ideas you have. Quickly build a minimum viable product and test it. If it does well, great; If it doesn’t, get feed back on why it didn’t work and improve upon it. By testing your ideas one by one, I think every idea finds its market. That’s how we are planning on running 3billion, testing our ideas one by one. The experiences and knowledge you gain during this process is invaluable.
Also there is a great support system for startups around the world. There are many investors, venture incubators, and industry experts who want to help. Once I jumped into the startup field, I was surprised at how much support system there is. I’m grateful for all the help we are receiving from people around us.
I think the best thing about starting a startup is that you are doing what you love and you choose to do it. Working for a company or someone else can never provide you that feeling of entitlement and achievement. Yes sometimes you work long hours and sometimes you have to come home early from a night out to write emails but it is not because you have to. It is because you choose to. I think that is the greatest feeling in the world. I work because I choose to and my input will directly lead to growth of my company.
What is one suggestion you have for Tufts community members when they visit Korea?
Definitely check out the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok village to get a sense of traditional Korea. If you are looking for something more exciting during the nighttime, check out Itaewon area where you will see many bars and lunges filled with young professionals.
该访谈系列由塔夫茨中国校友会组织，受访者都来自亚洲地区，访谈主要展现他（她）们在塔夫茨的学习生活以及毕业之后的职业发展情况，目的在于增加大家的了解，建立起一个互相支持的网络。如果希望通过这个平台分享自己的经验，请与Yiqing Li(’14，微信号chrisyiqingli)和Jessie Wang(’14, 微信号jessiewang14)联系。