The students had already won the Erasmus University Challenge last month, earning them 6,000 euros and a ticket to this Stage Two competition in Berlin. There, they won yet another prize!
The idea behind OASYS NOW is a variation on the existing individual DNA testing that is intended to help people find out more about their family tree or detect genetic disorders, for example, but in this case with a privacy-first design.
Co-founder Sara Okhuijsen (Nanobiology) sees opportunities in this regard. “In the United States, it’s normal for DNA data to be passed on to third parties without the knowledge of the data subject concerned. We secure the data after the DNA test and hand the control back to the person to whom the data relates. They can then decide how else it is used, for example to contribute to research into diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.”
Her team returned from Berlin on Sunday. It’s been a tough few days, as Sara tells us on the phone. “More than forty start-ups participated, and we were unexpectedly placed in the business category. However, this did make us stand out as a tech start-up. All the same, it was extremely stressful pitching in front of a huge hall full of investors.” Whereas the Erasmus University Challenge was aimed exclusively at EUR students, Stage Two involved start-ups from fifty European universities competing against each other.
The young entrepreneurs are not only pleased with the money, but also with its provider. Earlybird VC is one of the largest venture capital companies in Europe and has a good reputation. Sara: “Whereas we were able to use the prize money from the EUR Challenge to distribute DNA tests right away, this is such a large amount that we are combining it with the first round of investments. The fact that Earlybird VC believes in our idea also helps to convince other investors. We are discussing it with them in depth, so now it’s actually a matter of making informed choices about who we want to work with.”
All this attention might be good for the start-up, but can she still combine it with her Nanobiology studies? “Yes, absolutely”, laughs Sara, “it fits in extremely well. I can apply the things I learn there directly to OASYS NOW. Ultimately, our mission is to ensure that medical data are stored securely and that people own their personal data. So who knows: maybe in a while, we will be able to help Erasmus MC with this.”