This week we interviewed Patrick Short, he’s American, he studied his Phd at Cambridge and he’s now the Co- Founder and CEO of Sano Genetics. A startup that allows users to safely and simply get involved in medical trials by using at home DNA testing. They are currently researching into long COVID and its effects.
I’m Patrick, and I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina in the US. I’ve lived in Cambridge UK for almost 7 years after moving here for my PhD in 2014.2.
2. Give us a quick overview of your company and what it does.
Sano Genetics enables personalised medicine research by increasing participation in clinical trials and guiding patients through the process.
We have developed a private-by-design online platform and at-home DNA test kits that makes it simple and rewarding for people to take part in research.
We are building a global partner network of biobanks, government precision medicine initiatives, and patient organisations using our software to enable large-scale precision medicine studies to be conducted at 10x lower speed and cost.
3. What’s the next big idea that nobody is thinking about yet? Why is this so important?
I think we are getting close to a ‘tipping point’ in genomics and medicine where it will make economic sense to DNA sequence everyone. The reason for this is that there is mounting evidence of the value of this data in both rare and common diseases. As a genetic test only needs to be completed once, soon the benefits will outweigh the costs on a population / healthcare system level. This will spur even more innovation in the ‘application layer’ including the development of new genetically targeted medicines and in prediction and prevention of common diseases like type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
4. Looking back to the day you founded the company, what is the one thing you wish you had known before starting off?
The amount of time it takes to get large complex deals done. I am often an optimist when it comes to timelines, because I like to see things that seem to make sense for all parties move quickly. But, as partnerships or deals have gotten larger and more complex, they inevitably take longer than I would have originally thought. The key takeaways for me are to focus on accelerating the things that are in your control, find partners or customers that also share the same sense of urgency, and to plan for extra time even if you don’t end up needing it.
5. How do you define success for you / your company?
The way we operate at Sano is underpinned by our values and mission-oriented culture. Putting people and patients at the centre of what we do, our focus on industry-leading data privacy and transparency, the value of diverse perspectives, and going for impact are a few examples of the values that are important to us. For Sano, our long term aim is to bring personalised medicine to everyone. On the way to the mission, our success is defined by continually improving the experience for participants in medical research through our online platform and at-home testing, and by continually demonstrating that we can help our biotech/pharma/academic customers and partners to develop transformative new medicines 10x faster and at lower cost. For me personally, I’m excited to be able to work on a really meaningful problem with an incredible talented and passionate team and of course, to stay as healthy as I can, and keep enjoying life with my Wife (who also works at an early stage startup), my friends and family.
6. What’s your top idea to improve diversity in the workplace?
I think diverse perspectives and representation at all levels in the organisation matters greatly and is a key to success. My co-founder Charlotte said something once that really stuck with me which is ‘Diversity is where stagnation ends and growth begins’. I also had a great mentor as an undergraduate, Joe DeSimone who is the founder and now Chairman of Carbon, who was really vocal about the importance of diversity in his companies and lab.
There is no silver bullet, as I think lack of diversity in leadership roles is a systemic issue. However, I think setting the goal of having diverse representation in the leadership team, and team as a whole, and having the leadership communicating really clearly with the rest of the company that diversity is important, and why it is important is really critical. It seems simple, but a lot of companies talk about it, but don’t go to the length of codifying goals related to a diverse team in their OKRs, values etc.
7. What is the best advice you have ever been given and by whom?
It is not a single piece of advice, but i’ve picked up a lot of great things from my Dad. In particular, I really learned a lot from him on how to bounce back from set-backs, not to focus too much on sunk costs, and be quick to act or make a change if something is not working.
8. What was the most useful resource (networks/books/websites/blogs) you used when starting out?
I come from a scientific background, and have no formal business training, but I have always had a real interest in the business side of things. In my experience, most business books are not very good, but there are a few that I really got a lot out of, in particular 7 Powers by Hamilton Helmer. I also listen to a lot of podcasts, which I think help me to learn from other people’s successes and failures and often spark interesting ideas from different industries. My favourites right now and for the last few years are This Week in Startups, 20minVC, Stanford ETL, and Acquired FM.
9. What is the single most important thing you’ve done to increase the value of your business?
Building and supporting our great team alongside my co-founders Will and Charlotte. We have been fortunate to work with an incredible group of people from the start, and over the past year in particular as we have grown to 20 people. I think we’ve done a great job on attracting incredible talented and passionate people, and also from an internal operations perspective setting up a really effective OKR system, working really effectively remotely, and investing in our people operations including employee pulse surveys, 360 feedback, and other important initiatives.
10. Tell us something we don’t know about you?
I took a year off between high school and college (university). I’m American, and this is less common in the US than it is in the UK/Europe. I thought my parents would be skeptical, but they were all for it, and so I spent the first half of the year in China living with a host family and studying Chinese and the second half of the year in Guatemala teaching english/volunteering. I am also particularly grateful to the various sources of funding in particular from the University of North Carolina Morehead-Cain Scholarship that let me do something like this, which would have been prohibitively expensive otherwise.
11. If you could be offline for 3 days -where would you go and what would you do?
I really love hiking and camping. I went to patagonia a few years ago with my wife (girlfriend at the time!) and would love to go back there.