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It’s no surprise that DNA scientists value accuracy over speed when they’re performing tests. But these processes are about to get much faster, as advances in digital technology are now allowing software to take over a growing number of important yet repetitive and manual tasks. We asked Wouter Uten, the 24-year-old CEO of UgenTec, how his business is transforming the work of DNA laboratories.
Can you briefly explain what UgenTec does? We have developed a single-click software solution that allows scientists to spend more time on important research questions and less time on repetitive tasks. Our product automates all manual data processing and data interpretation tasks that are currently performed by highly educated people in laboratories around the world. We provide them with artificially intelligent software that can be used for all their DNA analysis, no matter the device or platform they deploy. We give them the capacity to scale up their operation at a time of high growth in their market.
Why were you so confident there was a market for your innovative idea? In my last year at university, I created a software solution for a laboratory wanting to automate the interpretation of DNA analysis. More laboratories quickly showed an interest and it was soon clear that there was a real gap between laboratory needs and the solutions on the market at that time.
UgenTec combines state of the art data science and software development with high level expertise in molecular diagnostics. This allows us to develop software that replaces the struggles laboratories experience every day. Most other parties in the market harness scientific knowledge but lack the technical expertise to use AI-techniques and good software development.
UgenTec: Bringing artificial intelligence into the laboratory
What makes your product unique? Our use of artificial intelligence is entirely new in this branch of DNA analysis. Until recently, healthcare professionals preferred manual solutions, but now they are looking to automate. Our competitors have less advanced products, which are often still interfaces that require a lot of manual processing of data and manual copy-pasting results.
What’s it like being a young CEO? Like everything, there are ups and downs. It’s not easy managing a company but UgenTec has an amazing team. I’ve never really felt the need to prove myself, despite never meeting a young CEO in other life science businesses. I invest a lot of time in growing as a CEO. I’m always listening to other people’s advice and following some intense training at top-notch institutes.
How would you describe the culture inside your business? Trust and an open culture is what makes UgenTec thrive. We have worked hard to keep the company as flat as possible. Teams are agile and work together in a self-steering manner. We implement a lot of processes to standardise the workflow, but we’re never scared to review and change these at short notice. Some of the life science conglomerates are a lot less flexible – we try our best to avoid this and to be as lean as possible towards our customers.
What’s the biggest challenge your business has needed to overcome? In a high-growth start-up, it’s a challenge to balance the structure of all the areas we need: product development, sales and marketing, customer service, HR… We succeed in this because we empower people to set quarterly goals, and regularly review progress towards these goals.
What do you want to achieve in the years ahead? My ambition is for UgenTec to become a global reference in the field of interpretation software for DNA analysis. Besides that, I want to grow UgenTec to remain an amazing place to work, where people can have personal growth ambition. I believe that empowerment of good people and shaping the right culture is the most important part of building a successful business.
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Our product automates all manual data processing and data interpretation tasks that are currently performed by highly educated people in laboratories around the world.

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UgenTec - key facts

  • Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 - Most Disruptive Innovator 2016
  • In a nutshell: automates previously labour-intensive elements of DNA analysis
  • Sector: software
  • Main customers: diagnostic companies and molecular laboratories
  • Founded: 2014, as a spinoff from the KU Leuven University
  • International: customers across Europe and Australia
  • Website: www.ugentec.com

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Most Disruptive Innovator UgenTec
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Fast 50 stories, May 2017
Fast 50 stories May 2017
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Our company is shaped more through its mistakes than through its successes.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would give to other technology entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with the right people and give them room to prove themselves. This means hiring not just for skills, but also for attitude and for experience of working in a fast-growing organisation.
If you were starting your business again, what would you do differently? I find that doing things in hindsight is very easy. Would have, should have… We’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past. But looking back, I wouldn’t change any one of them. Our company is shaped more through its mistakes than through its successes.

Watch the video of UgenTec