Yourgene Health - From Manchester life science startup to global diagnostics company
By Bruntwood SciTech
Founded in 2013, Yourgene Health began its journey at Manchester’s Citylabs campus as ‘Premaitha Health’ the company behind the development of the world’s first non-invasive prenatal screening test. Just four years later, Premaitha Health acquired Yourgene Biosciences in Taiwan in 2017, then rebranding to become Yourgene Health. Shortly after, the team joined forces with its Citylabs neighbours, Elucigene Diagnostics, to add even more skills and world-class talent to this global molecular diagnostics company.
We caught up with Joanne Cross, Director at Yourgene Health, to hear more about Yourgene’s journey to becoming a global life sciences company and how the business has grown substantially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, shaping its priorities and finding new partnerships to provide essential testing and expand its operations.
Tell us a bit more about what Yourgene Health does?
We’re a global molecular diagnostics company that offers a growing range of products and services across reproductive health, precision medicine and infectious diseases. More recently, we launched Yourgene Genomic Services to provide CRO core genetic services to the pharmaceutical, life sciences and diagnostics industry, along with our non-invasive prenatal screening test (NIPT) service offering.
Since the pandemic, although we’re still focusing on our core services, we saw an opportunity to utilise our skills and expertise to develop accurate, reliable and regulated products to support the global COVID-19 testing needs. In doing so, we have developed our own PCR antigen assay for SARS CoV-2 - our Clarigene test.
Having our global HQ at Citylabs 1.0 has made this easy for us as we’ve had fabulous state-of-the-art lab facilities to help support these new services. We also have a great network, labs and offices now in Singapore, Canada, US and Taiwan.
How did Yourgene Health go from a Manchester-based life sciences business to a global molecular diagnostics company?
Our business journey began in 2013 as ‘Premaitha Health’. Our core focus was the development and subsequent launch of the world’s first Non-invasive prenatal screening (NIPT) product that was CE marked namely, the IONA test. From there the company grew and expanded through a blended mix of inorganic and organic growth. The company went on to acquire Yourgene Biosciences in Taiwan in 2017, then rebranded the Group to Yourgene Health. In July 2018, our CEO Lyn Rees joined Yourgene and the Group embarked on a series of successful acquisitions over the last few years.
Then in April 2019, Yourgene acquired a Manchester diagnostics company, our neighbour at Citylabs 1.0, Elucigene Diagnostics, adding additional talent and products into our reproductive health portfolio with thanks to Elucigen’s leading diagnostic tests forcystic fibrosis screening and prenatal fetal aneuploidy screening. In 2020, despite the global pandemic, Yourgene completed three further acquisitions of AGX-DPNI, France, Ex5 Genomics and Coastal Genomics in Canada.
How has it been for Yourgene Health since reshaping priorities to help the fight against COVID-19?
The business has adapted a lot through the pandemic. Not only has the scope of our offering expanded, but so has the way we work too. We’re really proud of how agile everyone has been, especially for many staff that have continued to work from the labs and across our site facilities. We’re keeping up team morale with things like online challenges, Friday quizzes, resilience bootcamps with one hour guest speaker slots and of course, free covid testing for all staff and their families for peace of mind.
Some of our lab customers had been diverted from their previous projects to focus on providing COVID testing initially during the outbreak of the pandemic. Some of our core products, such as DPYD, have become even more critical as it can prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and reduce demand on the NHS.
In terms of our next steps, we have just announced a collaboration with (NPH) and Leeds Bradford Airport to offer a COVID-19 PCR testing service, getting ready for when international travel is allowed again later this year. This is in addition to our other private provider partners where we do the COVID testing for Fit to Fly schemes, workplace testing and Test to Release for international travellers.
How has being located in Manchester and at Citylabs helped the growth of Yourgene Health?
Being located at Citylabs and having our R&D department a stone's throw away at the sister campus Manchester Science Park has been really beneficial for us. Not only do we have modern, custom built labs, which is always useful to attract and recruit new staff, but we’re also located on the site of the UK’s largest NHS Trust which provides direct links into the NHS.
This location, as well as being located in Manchester’s innovation district, means we’re part of a cluster of like-minded businesses who are always willing to help, collaborate and connect. For example, we’ve had access to university services to support some of our R&D that we have outsourced and have used recruitment services to grow our teams and those of our providers.
There’s a lot of valuable opportunities around when you’re co-located with similar businesses, knowledge institutions and the NHS. We look forward to the next few years of growth and opportunity!