Planning Ahead with Physician/Entrepreneur Marc Grodman, M.D.

November 6, 2019

Michael Wong speaks to Dr. Marc Grodman about leading BioReference, his new role as CEO of Genosity, and the future of digital transformation.

In this installment of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association (HBSHAA) Q&A series, providing executive insights for readers to shape their own career paths, HBSHAA co-president Michael Wong speaks to

Dr. Marc Grodman about his 30 years leading BioReference, his role as CEO of Genosity, and the promise of digital transformation.

 

MW: You started BioReference in the 1980s, spent 30 years as a public company CEO and grew it from a few hundred thousand in revenue to almost $1bn by the time it was acquired in 2015. Your growth was overwhelmingly organic, culminating in 20 years of 20% CAGR while competitors struggled to grow at all. How did you accomplish that and what skills were necessary to achieve that purpose?

MG: BioReference was known for specialty innovation, launching more new tests than any laboratory in clinical areas as diverse as women’s health, oncology and especially in ultra rare disorders through a subsidiary, GeneDX, which grew from $5m to $175m in the 10 years after they were acquired. GeneDX was the first commercial clinical laboratory to employ Next Gen Sequencing for clinical conditions. First, it was cardiology, then other clinical areas and finally we launched an exome program that performed more of these tests in a clinical setting than any laboratory in the world at the time. In many ways, my training as a physician and clinician (Listening to patients, piecing together relevant facts, understanding the basis for your clinical decisions and always questioning whether you could be wrong) provided the critical skills to help me lead BioReference’s growth. While CEO, I still made medical attending rounds every summer at Columbia. Being a clinician made me a better CEO.

Over the years, BioReference created a great deal of value to shareholders, why start all over with Genosity?

I always stated that laboratories were information companies; that was never more compelling than in genomics and simply put, I left something on the table. At the end of my time at BioReference, we spent a great deal of time and effort to thoroughly own the entire genomic enterprise, the relationship between genomic data and drug discovery, and the challenges of reimbursement. We even completed some disruptive deals to provide all genetic testing to a large health system (we had the widest selection of sequencing services in all clinical areas), in exchange for informatics that empowered the health system’s efforts in R&D, patient care and commercial collaborations.

Still, the underlying mission remained unfulfilled and Genosity was created: to utilize the underlying assets of the clinical laboratory to generate, manage and leverage genomic data

We relied upon our experience to understand the needs of those entities that comprise the genomic ecosystem: health systems, bio-pharmaceutical companies, patients, researchers as well as the economic interests of laboratories, IVD/RUO developers and sequencer manufacturers many of whom work in silos not only between them but within themselves.

Finally, we understand that there are barriers that impact the segments noted and which should be addressed:

  • Costs must be taken out of the system wherever possible.

  • Regulatory changes need to be addressed and anticipated.

  • Barriers that prevent more patients to be characterized should be removed.

  • Data must be accessible for clinical care, research and potential commercial collaborations to allow for drug discovery.

  • Ways to leverage the genomic data,  that technical advances have now enabled, should be identified.

“Digital transformation” continues to be a C-Suite focal point for many healthcare entities. Of the many different opportunities, which area do you feel offers the most promise? 

When you have a market environment where the falling cost of genomic sequencing has outpaced Moore’s Law[1], it’s not surprising that over 250 FDA-approved drugs are now labeled for prescribing based on patients’ genetics - a number that has tripled since 2014.[2]While Artificial Intelligence might be the topic du jour for some organizations, my prior experience taught me that securing tangible business value can only be achieved in understanding not only the value but also the barriers that stand in the way of adoption. In simple terms, genomics can provide limitless tangible value in the future, but it still needs solutions to unlocking that potential. The second point is that the eventual winners, not only defined as financial but those who will have the most impact, may not be the firms  which achieve the highest stock price. For genomics to achieve value, it will need to be incorporated in major systems, be part of our infrastructure and be readily available to both professionals and patients. That landscape is still to be defined and will not be determined by the sophistication of the technology but the ways those advances are utilized. 

 

[1]Xun, Xu,“We are witnessing a revolution in genomics - and it's only just begun”,  World Economic Forum, June 24, 2019 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/today-you-can-have-your-genome-sequenced-at-the-supermarket/

[2]Garvan Global Genomics Report, May 2018 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180504103811.htm