Gordon Sanghera wishes for a future where parents can diagnose unwell children in minutes. Oxford Nanopore, his notion of “cheap and easy genetics” is considered to be one of Britain's rare “unicorns” today. The unlisted technology company is valued at over $ 1 billion. Its devices can read codes of DNA in minutes, threatening to disrupt an industry which, as you read, is skyrocketing.
The company's flagship DNA-sequencer, the MinION has long been used to track the infamous ebola virus across West Africa, and research Zika in South America. A London hospital recently used it to show how a deadly infection had reached its intensive care ward. Sanghera believes the equipment will soon be in every home, hospital, and research laboratories across the globe. While his products such as GridION, PromethION, and the MinION aims researchers for now, he is set to reach out to consumers soon. His SmidgION, which will plug into a smartphone, is all set to be launched next year. “The vision is that parents would buy this thing instead of going to a GP.” He admits it won't be cheap. “If you go to JP Morgan,” he said, “and speak to every banker with kids, they will buy it.”
Considering it as a Christmas gift? “You could put a bit of saliva on the device in the morning and over Christmas dinner it will build your genealogy tree,” Sanghera said. Son to Indian immigrants, he grew up in a stereotypical crowded four-bedroom house, based in Swindon, Wiltshire. His mother died when he was 11. He and his three younger siblings were cared for in the house by his father, grandparents, and four aunts. After graduating in Chemistry, he proceeded to do a PhD, to escape an arranged marriage, he admitted.
“My daughter, who is in her second year at Leeds University, has so much advice from my wife and I. I didn't have any of that,” he said. He stated he suffered from a “mid-life crisis” at the age of 43. His earlier position in the research lab of professor Allen Hill at Oxford led to his first role at Medisense, a company that sold to Abott Laboratories in 1996. “The problem with Abbott is the final salary pension scheme. By 50, it becomes very difficult to leave. But people are there because this carrot is dangling.” While he was doing “OK, financially” at Medisense, he decided to have another go. “To get another chance on the swings and roundabouts, the second time round you savour it more. You are more determined.”
Oxford Nanopre will eventually list in London, when the timing is right, he said. Sanghera is clear his company will not run out of money. He expects it to be profitable within the next two to three years.