Slovak Startup Offers Extraordinary Insights From DNA Tests

A new Slovak startup, DNA ERA, generates unique insights from DNA saliva extracts. Whereas most businesses that conduct DNA analysis offer information about family history, DNA ERA looks at hereditary diseases, physical aptitudes, optimal nutrition, and other clues stored in our DNA.

doctor working at the laboratory using pipette
Photo: iStock.com / poba

The DNA ERA startup provides a complex prognosis on one’s health and sport potential by analyzing a DNA sample. The procedure is simple and similar to a Covid-19 test: the client takes a swab of their saliva and places it into a tube. The sample then goes to a specialized laboratory in Germany, where the DNA is examined.

The technology in the laboratory can read up to 65,000 different DNA codes into raw data, stated DNA ERA co-founder Jakub Šiška, who co-founded DNA ERA together with his wife Michaela Šišková. The raw data is then sent back and decoded, interpreted, and analyzed by the company’s proprietary AI software. The software can measure up to 93 aspects of the DNA from the raw data. The service currently costs somewhere between EUR 150 to EUR 300 based on the selected bundle. Once assessed, the results are available online.

To put the results into perspective, the quantifiable findings are compared to the average. This may include the presence of minerals in the body, levels of lactose intolerance, as well as desirable vitamin and mineral levels. In addition, the results demonstrate the risk of carrying certain genetic diseases and hereditary defects that the carrier may not be aware of. They also touch on sports, as the results inform the client whether they are better off training strength or endurance. In case of incorrect selection, injuries are more likely to occur, according to the founder.

Not only is the amount of available data astonishing, but they are also more accessible to the general population. For example, it used to be difficult to obtain results for hemochromatosis, a disorder when extra iron builds in the small intestine, for somebody under age 50. Yet, it may be present and building up in somebody younger, which can now be detected by the DNA ERA test.

Rise of the DNA ERA startup

DNA ERA grew rapidly over the last two years. With the growing demand for DNA tests, the startup became a unicorn within three years, with only eight permanent staff members. By the time it hit the headlines in June 2021, when the Crowdberry investment platform announced that it would invest EUR 1 mln into the business, the startup was already making more than EUR 200,000 in revenues than it had planned. The progress went hand-in-hand with expansion to Czechia and Poland, where new hubs were open with further destinations on the horizon.

Regarding Slovakia, the startup hopes to open its own lab in the country and offer more services to its clients. DNA ERA hopes to expand its services using blood extraction, similar to what Theranos unsuccessfully attempted to do in the past. Another project that DNA ERA aims to conduct is comparing the genetic data of people from various countries. In addition, DNA ERA is inspired by Estonia, whose government plans to conduct similar DNA tests for its whole population and use the data to improve the Health Care System.

Beginnings and challenges

The startup story may seem easy, but the beginnings were not that easy. Šiška and Šišková initially had no seed investment, so they had to invest their own money into the project. This was after they spent 1.5 years analyzing various scholarly data on DNA. Luckily, after finding the right investors, the company is now on a path to growth. According to Globe News Wire, worldwide spending on DNA testing will hit USD 14 mln by 2030. Should this turn out to be true, further scientific discoveries and clients await DNA ERA.

Martin Hochel

Martin Hochel comes from Bratislava, Slovakia, and has also lived in Belgium and the UK. He holds a BA in history and politics from Birkbeck College, University of London and is currently studying for his masters at the Central European University in Vienna in nationalism studies. Martin also works as a junior analyst at the Government Office of the Slovak Republic. In his free time, he likes to read, play the piano, and travel.

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