Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2014 (Revised December 2014)

GenapSys: Business Models for the Genome

by Richard G. Hamermesh, Joseph B. Fuller and Matthew Preble


GenapSys, a California-based startup, was soon to release a new DNA sequencer that the company's founder, Hesaam Esfandyarpour, believed was truly revolutionary. The sequencer would be substantially less expensive—potentially costing just a few thousand dollars—and smaller than other sequencers, many of which were large devices costing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. GenapSys' device, named GENIUS, could also quickly generate large amounts of data, as it was capable of sequencing an entire human genome in less than eight hours. At this price, GenapSys' device would be attractive to customers that had been unable to afford sequencers, such as smaller laboratories or hospitals, and even expand the market to include industries such as agriculture and biofuels.

As GenapSys came closer to releasing its product, Esfandyarpour and his Senior Director of Operations and Strategy, Leila Rastegar (HBS '11), sat down to decide which of three business models they would choose to bring this device to market. In the first model, the company would sell sequencers at a higher price to those entities which already purchased sequencers, primarily major research labs and pharmaceutical firms, but position its machine as a faster alternative to existing technologies. In the second model, GenapSys would sell its sequencer at a lower price but charge more for the cartridges necessary to run a sample, and earn its primary revenue from these cartridges. The third model would see GenapSys sell its device at or around cost, but use the data customers generated to create a proprietary database of genetic information. Customers could pay to access the database for research, to create genetic tests, or for many other purposes. GenapSys would also build an online store with the genetic tests customers created.

Esfandyarpour's and Rastegar's decision would determine GenapSys' customer base and financial position for the coming years, and also impact development and capital needs of the firm. Which was the right model to bring the device to market and have a meaningful impact?

Keywords: DNA Sequencing; life sciences; business model; innovation & entrepreneurship; Health Care and Treatment; Genetics; Business Strategy; Biotechnology Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry; Technology Industry; Health Industry; Medical Devices and Supplies Industry; United States;


Hamermesh, Richard G., Joseph B. Fuller, and Matthew Preble. "GenapSys: Business Models for the Genome." Harvard Business School Case 814-050, January 2014. (Revised December 2014.)