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Precision Diagnosis

To accurately treat a potentially deadly infectious disease, doctors have to be able to identify it first. Unfortunately, that’s not always a straightforward process. Enter IDbyDNA, a biotech startup co-founded by Guochun Liao that rapidly identifies microorganisms using DNA and big data.

The company uses a DNA search engine called Taxonomer. Doctors can upload data from a patient’s sample into the software—even from a mobile device. Within minutes, Taxonomer combs databases containing the DNA sequences of bacterial, viral, and fungal microorganisms to discern which pathogen is present.

“Sequencing is now very powerful and affordable,” Liao says. “We’re questioning the current diagnosis, the standard of care, and asking, ‘Is there a better way to do it?’”

In addition to his Berkeley MBA, Liao earned here a master’s in computer science and artificial intelligence and a PhD in genetics and bioinformatics. He also was VP of bioinformatics at Centrillion Biosciences from 2010 to 2013. But he credits Berkeley Haas with opening up his thinking and the Haas network with providing him confidence to pursue an entrepreneurial path.

With IDbyDNA raising $9 million in Series A financing in 2016, Liao believes 2017 could be a hallmark year. Already the company is developing a Taxonomer-powered sequencing-based diagnostic test for respiratory infections, called Explify Respiratory, which will be available soon. “The analysis technology is mature and the medical community is ready to accept this concept,” he says. “The sequencing cost is going down….Everything is coming together at the right time.” —EB

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Guochun Liao, EMBA 14

Guochun Liao, EMBA 14

Co-Founder, President & CEO, IDbyDNA Inc.
San Francisco