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Anu Acharya: Unlocking The Gene
In the next five years, Anu Acharya sees Mapmygenome as a company that would be able to impact nearly 100 million lives using genomics
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Anu Acharya is one of India’s young achiever women entrepreneurs who is currently the CEO of Mapmygenome India, a genomics company whose vision is ‘Better health using Technology’. She started her entrepreneurial journey in 2000 and built one of the largest global genomics brand.
Anu is also the co-founder of Ocimum Biosolutions, which she led as the CEO (2000-March 2013). Being an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and University of Illinois, she has had a bright educational track record with a post graduate degree in Physics and MIS.
Anu has won several awards on various platforms that felicitate entrepreneurs. For instance, Anu has won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Biospectrum magazine in 2008; not just that, the Red Herring magazine included her in the 25 Tech Titans under 35 in 2006. Recently, Anu has also won accolades as the Women Ahead in the Jio Economic Startup Awards 2016.
As part of the portfolio, Ocimum Biosolution had an extensive database called Bioexpress, which was used by most of the major pharmaceuticals in their drug discovery. One concern, however, was that the number of Indian samples as compared to the samples collected abroad were really small, despite the huge population in India. This is something Anu wishes to change. She is trying to change the genomic inequality and bring the prevention practices in the forefront for people in the country. For the uninitiated, the preventive practices in genomic study offer better preventive care for diseases as the study looks into the genetic structure of the patient.
Anu expresses how Mapmygenome (based in Hyderabad), the genomics consumer firm, finally solved both these problems at the same time. She says, “We came up with ‘genomepatri’ plan” The word is a play on janam patri or the birth chart, which most Indian families get made when a child is born. Anu further adds about genomepatri, “That’s how we started. Today we have solutions that are both preventive and also clinical diagnostics.”
In the next five years, Anu sees Mapmygenome as a company that would be able to impact a 100 million lives using genomics. So far, the company has raised about $2 million of funding in total.
Working in this field can be a very distinct career choice. Is it tough for women in this field? “Well! It depends. It is possible that a man would also have similar challenges in genomics. The field is nascent and difficult, so it makes it both exciting and difficult,” says Anu. On the pace of science-driven startups in terms of discoveries or inventions, Anu says, “Indian startups are coming up with some great ideas but funding is still minimal compared to the West. Science-based startups are the ones that need the funding upfront and will deliver long term results. We need to change the expectations of the ecosystem.”
Anu signs off with an inspirational poem she wrote on the eve of International Women’s Day: It’s tough and its steep, but we have promises to keep / Women ahead of us, cleared a trail / You are strong, not frail / So let’s widen that to an avenue / Let’s inspire some more, not just a few /
Not just on international women’s day / Lets win and lead the way!