Interview with Umut Ağyüz, founder of Genz Biotech
We would like to share with you the conversation we have had with Umut Ağyüz, founder of Genz Biotechnology that we support as Boğaziçi Ventures. Genz Biotechnology pursues activities in the field of biotechnology and is established to serve public health by rendering DNA analysis more accessible.
Please tell us about yourself.
I am Umut Ağyüz, after I earned the engineering faculty that was my dream while I was studying at İstanbul Science High School, I quit thereof and made for the field of biology and medicine that I thought I would never come through. I devoted myself to understanding cancer and figuring out its genetic substructure. Of course, cancer is an immense ocean that is being studied for a long time and has yet to be explored from every aspect, but we are using our entire analytical skills and engineering capabilities to introduce a new approach to cancer.
Can you talk about Genz Biotechnology? When and how was it founded?Genz Biotechnology was founded in 2017, yet its history dates back to an enterprise I had founded in METU Technocity by earning a Techno-venture grant from the Ministry of Industry in 2015. We are currently carrying out our activities in Bilkent Cyberpark.
I had first started to work in this field having been inspired by one of my girlfriends. She inspired me because she had familial breast cancer. Breast cancer has become a problem that trailed me, that I have always been excited to work more on, and I did what is necessary to be done. I did not establish Genz to have a company of my own, to be honest. I have found it because it is necessary for me and my colleagues’ studies whom I am currently working with. All we want is to do our job in the best way, this is the motivation source for me and my fellows.
Certain malign cancer types can spread to other organs. Can this test help us in diagnosing a cancer patient whom cancer was secondarily spread to the breast?
No, the reason we try to understand cancer on the molecular basis is to stop it before it deteriorates by getting to the bottom of the problem, rather than diagnosing it more easily. The diagnosis of both breast cancer and metastasis can be done quite easily. Very sophisticated imaging techniques are used for this. We are trying to do “reverse engineering” to get to the bottom of the subject matter. If we can figure this out, we can understand why and how it started, and we can stop it when we conduct a tailor-made scan.
Are these operations carried out at a specific center? How can people reach you?
Currently, it is started to be carried out at a specific center at Bilkent Cyberpark, yet it will soon transform into a center-free and technology-free state.
Do you think that the bioinformatics studies and investments made in Turkey are at an adequate level?
In Turkey, incentives for the researchers abroad to return to the country is enhancing, especially in the field or bioinformatics. The reverse brain-drain in this field is happening in a couple of rooted institutions including TUBITAK.
Beyond generating biological data, our age is now all about gathering this large data and understanding it. In this context, bioinformatics enables us to get beyond “cohort studies” (longtime group examinations) and see the picture from a larger perspective.
Are you considering to diversify and improve your studies in Turkey and globally?
As a matter of fact, we have already started, we just could not commercialize this part. It is a new concept, and the biggest obstacle before innovation is to have this acknowledged and failing to suit this to the book of regulations. This is why they cannot commercialize so easily; however we will push harder and harder each time and, if necessary, bring approaches to the problems that the world has yet to realize.
What would you recommend to the entrepreneurs who are working in the ever-expanding genetic testing market, especially in the field of bioinformatics and genetics?
Bioinformatics is a burgeoning and newly learned topic, our need for qualified staff is very much whereas the initiatives in this area are very few in our country. My suggestion would be that these young brains come together and collaborate. Sometimes we have difficulty ourselves in getting assistance when we face a problem. The number of people we can refer to is very few and it is difficult to engage them. My advantage is to have learned this job abroad, I can keep in touch with my contacts thereof. However, no matter how difficult I claim this is, I support all initiatives in this field to the full extent. We, too, still have a lot to learn, I favor combining our powers and being globally assertive.