Startup Spotlight: Canomiks

Nov 18, 2018

Startup Spotlight: Canomiks

Nov 18, 2018

Meet Leena Pradhan-Nabzdyk, PhD, MBA, Co-Founder and CEO of Canomiks!

GH: What is Canomiks?

Canomiks is a B2B company providing genomics and bioinformatics solutions to functional foods & beverages and dietary supplement companies.
Using cutting-edge genomics, bioinformatics and data analytics, Canomiks has developed its proprietary technology, GeneTune™. GeneTune™ can be used to design herbal and micronutrient formulations for functional foods and dietary supplements to support the management of chronic conditions and to maintain health and wellness.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Canomiks get started?

Our co-founder Dr. Manoj Bhasin was investigating the effect of meditation on human genes and found out that there is a profound positive effect of such alternative therapies not only on clinical parameters but also on our genes. His obvious next question was, what else amongst the alternative therapies may have an effect on human genes?
Traditional medicine from India and China has provided us the wisdom about how herbal medicine may affect our bodies but what about their effect at the deep molecular genetic level? Dr. Bhasin sought out to study if herbal medicine had any effect at the genetic level and what kind of effect? And that’s the genesis of Canomiks.

GH: How did you build your team?

We are currently three co-founders and are a nimble team. But as we are growing (and growing very fast), we are looking to build out our team. We are looking for driven individuals with a  focus on building a diverse team.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

Our most important philosophy is to develop products using state-of-the-art approach with highest scientific and ethical integrity. The culture that we want to build is one of ethical integrity in serving our customers (and their customers), our employees, and our investors.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

In the first year of our company before we even had all the parts put together, we got our first customer for a big project. We did not want to say no to this customer. We lost sleep for a week. Had to scramble to contact our sub-contractors, vendors etc. We worked endless hours and put together a plan to bring this customer on-board. We used our prior relationships and experiences to successfully complete this project. They are our repeat customer. So somehow we made it work. A lesson learned is that when you go out and talk to potential customers, you better be ready with your offering.

Leena Pradhan-Nabzdyk, PhD, MBA, Co-Founder and CEO of Canomiks

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

Be honest and transparent with your customers. Keep them updated. Communication is the key. Even when things do not go according to the plan. Especially when they do not go according to the plan. Get them involved throughout the project and treat them more as a collaborator. My experience as an academic scientist, has helped a lot when gauging the wants and needs of our customer’s R&D team.
Since scientific and ethical integrity is our core value, we do not compromise on that and our customers appreciate us for that.

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

Everything. Our company is a spin-off from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. All of us three co-founders are faculty members of Harvard Medical School. The network of mentors in the ecosystem is amazing. People are very willing to help you without expecting anything in return. Recently, we were one of the finalists in the Boston cohort of Mass Challenge accelerator and currently we are in the 5th cohort of the TiE Boston ScaleUp accelerator. All the resources that such organizations provide are extremely crucial especially in the early years of a startup. As a female founder fellow of The Capital Network, I can attend their seminars and educational programs, network in the community and look forward to our success.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

Boston is an expensive city. We have to compete against multinational companies for talent. So naturally, a lot of potential employees want to work for big companies that can provide competitive compensation to able to afford to live in the city. We have to do better with our housing and transportation infrastructure.
Another aspect is childcare. As a female founder with a 4.5-year-old and a spouse who does not have a flexible job, it becomes hard. Childcare is not cheap in the city.
Most importantly and not unique to Boston, getting investments in female-founded companies is notoriously hard. Maybe Boston can take a lead on that.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

I was once told by an influential man that although I am very well qualified with all the right skills, no one will want to invest in my company if I become the CEO because I am a woman and so I should think of becoming the product development lead and not the CEO.  My two co-founders, who are both men, never had any doubt and we all decided that day I am going to be the CEO.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

Several good things happened to us. As mentioned before we got selected for the prestigious Mass Challenge and TiE Boston ScaleUp accelerators, I got selected as a female founder fellow for The Capital Network. We are signing on more customers. We licensed our formulations to an exciting new beverage company. We are growing and scaling.

GH: What does the future hold for Canomiks?

Right now we are really looking to take care of our customers. We want to build a brand that everyone recognizes. We want to become the gold standard in the functional food and dietary supplement industry for providing genomics solutions, be it designing new formulations, testing existing formulations or certifying the biological effect of ingredients used.

Learn more about the Canomiks!

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