Portfolio Stories: Nebula Genomics
In this Q/A session with Kamal Obbad, co-founder and CEO of portfolio company Nebula Genomics, Kamal shares his experiences as a tech rebel in the field of biotechnology. Nebula Genomics is on a mission to build the world’s largest, most trusted genomic and health data marketplace to facilitate data-driven healthcare.
What is your personal mission that led you to found Nebula Genomics?
Through my experiences in the healthcare system, one of the issues I’ve always seen is the challenge doctors have in trying to make data-driven patient decisions. There’s a lot of fragmentation around healthcare and health data that is driven by trust. As blockchain technologies became more popular, the idea of sharing data became very applicable to healthcare. A decentralized approach seemed like a solution to connect different databases in the healthcare industry. Eventually, this led to the goal of providing large data sources where doctors could start making more data-driven decisions for personalized medicine which was the impetus that lead to me founding Nebula Genomics.
How do you see the industry as being ripe for disruption today?
Healthcare is one of the slowest moving industries right now. It’s faced with issues surrounding how data is disseminated and shared. Some of the reasons behind this are regulatory, others are trust-based, and there is also the need for patient consent. This has created significant friction regarding health data sharing. In an era where you see AI and big data flowing in other industries, this hasn’t been the case in healthcare. The way doctors diagnose conditions today is very similar to how they diagnosed conditions decades ago. There’s an opportunity for personalized medicine and genomic-driven medicine. This is a space where there has been a lot of interest, but there hasn’t been a lot of movement which makes it ready for someone to come in and make big changes.
Nebula has a great team with deep connections in academia, the healthcare industry, and pharma. This allows us to work with some of the most impactful players in the space to address the difficulty that is health data sharing. We are trying to build a system where you can connect different data sets without ever taking ownership of them.
What has been your biggest success and your greatest learning as an entrepreneur?
I would consider my team my greatest success so far. We’ve grown to a team of twelve people, and despite being a small team, I think we’re a team of great depth.
My biggest learning is to always be diligent about checking assumptions. Many spaces are often more complicated than anticipated with so much happening in the background. It’s important to understand the assumptions you’re making by validating them and comparing them to real-world evidence.
I would tell others thinking about going down an entrepreneurial path to make sure you have chosen a topic you could see yourself working on long-term. You need to be working in a field that you’re passionate about because the days are hard and long when you are building a startup. Don’t try to build a startup based on a trendy topic because if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, at the end of the day, you may find yourself wishing you were somewhere else.
Why did you choose to partner with Hemi?
I chose to work with Hemi because even before they invested, they were always there to help. We had a large number of investors in our seed round, and Hemi always stands out as one of the most proactive ones in helping portfolio companies.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I think people would be surprised to know that I’m an immigrant. My parents came from North Africa, and then I came here from Canada. I’ve been in the US for the past decade.
Something interesting about Nebula is that a perk of working here gives you the opportunity to have your genome sequenced.
Looking forward, what upcoming products, plans or geographic expansions are in the pipeline?
We’ve been doing public demos at conferences which have gotten great reception. We’re going to be launching very soon. We’ll be offering genome sequencing and other related services.