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Dr. Niamh O’Hara: I Am Abnormally Patient and Persistent in Tackling a Challenge

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Dr. Niamh O'Hara

Dr. Niamh O’Hara of Biotia.

Tell us about yourself?

I am an evolutionary biologist turn entrepreneur bringing cutting edge genomics technology to the infectious diseases field to improve diagnostics, surveillance, and treatment.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

That there is a cookie-cutter approach that will work for different companies. That you need to be more aggressive, sit on the tallest chair, or be the “Uber of everything”.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

I would tell myself to listen to advice from a diverse group of advisors and team members, but also trust your gut.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I am abnormally patient and persistent in tackling a challenge. I will work different angles and compromise on aspects to reach a goal.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

Walking away from a problem for a while when I’ve hit the high frustration mark. I used to work late into the night with diminishing returns on such problems, but now I try to sleep instead.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

We are a group of scientists, genomics researchers, software engineers, healthcare entrepreneurs, and medical professionals mostly coming out of Cornell and Columbia Universities.

We have deep knowledge in this field and deep frustration in the lack of adoption of powerful new technology in the clinic to address patient’s problems.

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Where do you see your business in five years?

We are bringing precision medicine to infectious disease diagnostics. We see our assays offered in all advanced health care facilities, delivering care to improve patient outcomes and save lives.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

There are challenges around insurance reimbursement since this is such new technology. The pandemic has shifted the understanding and adoption of genomics technology in infectious diseases so we do see a large sea-change happening.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

Within a few months at the beginning of the pandemic we had partnered with Twist Bioscience and developed the first hybrid-capture genomics assay to characterize SARS-CoV-2 genetic variants. We went on to receive FDA EUA and deploy this assay globally.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

We are still mostly found through word of mouth and organic growth through our network. We plan to ramp up our sales team and efforts coming up but I lead a lot of the sales efforts still.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

There are lots of different types of investors and there isn’t only one way to fundraise. It is important to find the folks who are aligned with your mission and approach.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

We just did a Series A, we hiring and are excited to grow. I look forward to really expanding our products offerings in the clinic.

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