Within the head of David Del Bourgo, Co founder and CEO of Whitelab Genomics

The exchange between Vincent Puren and David Del Bourgo traces the life of an engineer, who became passionate about sciences and decided to leave large companies to create a startup with the desire "to be recognized as a leader in this industry dedicated to genomic therapies."

Published on 21 November 2022 at 02h14


Welcome to the ninth episode of our WhatHealth podcast, a podcast dedicated to e-health entrepreneurs.  

As before, we have a well-known entrepreneur from Future4care, as he is a member of the first class of our accelerator. This entrepreneur is David Del Bourgo, co-founder and CEO of Whitelab Genomics.  

What is Whitelab Genomics? It's an artificial intelligence platform for discovering and developing drugs that use RNA and DNA.  

Whitelab Genomics' proprietary platform leverages graph knowledge technology and machine learning to discover and design new genomic therapies. Genomics is the analysis of the human genome.   

This platform is based on comprehensive datasets and thus provides in silico simulations to discover and design optimized payloads and vectors.   

The exchange between Vincent Puren  and David Del Bourgo traces the life of an engineer, who became passionate about sciences and decided to leave large companies to create a startup with the desire "to be recognized as a leader in this industry dedicated to genomic therapies."    

This interview is from the podcast that you can watch here or listen to here.  

Enjoy reading and listening 😊  


Engineering / Science - Employee / Entrepreneur ... why choose?  

Engineer or Scientist?  As soon as he finished high school, it was a dilemma for David. 

In the end, he chose to study engineering. Engineer yes, but with a real international dimension. "Traveling makes you young," he says. He travels from country to country, immersing himself in different cultures and people he meets.  

He quickly joined large groups, such as General Electric, where he tells us he evolved very quickly. He started as an engineer before becoming European Program Manager, then, a year later, Global Product Manager. He achieved this development through his work and accelerated training, but for him, this was not enough.  

For a scientist, the world of business remains very distant and it is necessary to have the basics, to acculturate oneself to it.  

10 years later, he decided to resume his studies. "I wouldn't be able to do it today", he confided to us, but at the time, he did it and got great satisfaction from it.  

This MBA, at the University of Chicago, allowed him to travel between the European campus in Spain and the American campus. It was an opportunity to strengthen his international outlook, while continuing to work at General Electric.  

He learned the fundamentals to develop and perform in sales and marketing. These were invaluable assets for the rest of his career, especially when he decided in 2018 to create Whitelab Genomics.  

At the same time, David has always been fascinated by the way technology could be used in the service of science to achieve great things.  

With this in mind, in 2014 he joined Genomic Vision, a French biotech company that provides tools and services to visualize and characterize DNA molecules, as Head of Sales and Marketing.  

It was during this experience that he began to develop his entrepreneurial spirit. It was also during this period that he met his future partner, Julien Cottineau, through his position at the Imagine Institute.  

Little by little, David realized that his work, very demanding, was both challenging and stressful. He realizes that all this energy could be put to use in his own business, in a project that would be his own and with which he could change things.  

So in 2018, he decided to embark on the adventure of Whitelab Genomics.  


Whitelab Genomics, the creation  

David, convinced by Julien's business acumen and the good feeling they shared, asked him to join the adventure. A geneticist with a PhD to his credit, Julien wanted to change direction professionally and decided to take the plunge.  

With their experience in the genomic therapy industry and in business, they developed a startup with the ambition of finding tomorrow's therapies faster and more reliably. They then develop a partnership business model. In general, they establish a collaboration with a biotech or pharmaceutical company and accompany it through its project, with the aim of supporting the discovery and design of a therapy. As far as financing is concerned, the classic "uprfont, milestone and success royalty fees" scheme is used. Finally, Whitelab genomics remains associated with the molecule as long as it lives.  

Quickly, COVID hits the industry and the world. A real hurdle for the nascent and ambitious startup.  

"We thought we were going to die several times", says the entrepreneur. A feeling shared by many other entrepreneurs during this unprecedented period.  

Indeed, for Whitelab, the most complicated part was the closing of the American borders. America being the first market of the startup.  

But after a year, Whitelab Genomics was able to obtain a national exemption to enter the country. It was also in the interest of American biotech companies to allow players like the startup to take over the business on the other side of the Atlantic.  

David does not hide the fact that there is also an element of luck involved, without which he believes they would not have survived.   

He also takes the opportunity to thank his team and his partner. "I surround myself a lot," he says.  To him , that's one of the real resources for survival in a world like this

Paradoxically, COVID19 has also played an important role in the startup's expansion. Whitelab didn't focus on creating vaccines, no, instead the pandemic brought terms like 'messenger RNA', 'Genomes' to the forefront of the general public in particular. It also reinforced the belief that certain situations require the development of therapies as quickly and reliably as possible, which is what the startup is committed to doing since 2018.  

This gave a real boost to the startup, which has been growing ever since.  

DNA, the genome, being sensitive subjects, Vincent asked David about the subject of data and especially their storage.  

He told us that initially, Whitelab works almost exclusively with public data, which requires less security on the part of the startup itself. However, when, for a project, they come to upload private data, then the process is very different. A dedicated team takes care of securing it within a graph database, in which they create secure zones. Moreover, they are also used to the secure cloud, to store this kind of data. Good data security is essential for Whitelab, but so is good control and use.  

David confides that the R&D team, which is extremely competent, is and will remain in France, as the country has a rich and qualified workforce. It is important for them to grow here, with all the expertise they have and will continue to acquire.  

Indeed, the field of innovative therapies is very developed in Europe, mainly in Italy and France. David is very proud of this.  

When he talks about the future, he obviously talks about the American market share, which will grow proportionally to the startup. The idea is to set up a team mainly in sales and marketing. You need to be there to understand the issues, understand the customers and then develop the right products.  

Today, it is mainly the two partners who travel between the two continents, but by 2023, a team should be established in Boston and Cambridge.   

Moreover, a few weeks ago, in September 2022, the startup initiated this development by raising 10 million euros, thanks to the investment of Omnes Capital and Debiopharm, a Swiss pharmaceutical group.  

A long-awaited investment for David and Julien, but which will not only be used for international expansion. 


Fundraising and corporate culture, what is the link?  

David is very pleased with this fundraising and is still very grateful for to his two investors.  

Vincent asks David why Whitelab Genomics was chosen over dozens of other startups seeking Series A funding.  

He answers that they were accompanied by experts in the field, which allowed them to grow in the right way (Station F, Y Combinator, Future4care, BPI, among others).  

He also tells us that the two investors recognized the solidity of the project, despite the limited means. A real technology deployed, an interesting and reliable customer portfolio, a real knowledge of the industry.  

International is fine, but what are the other objectives for the startup after this fundraising?   

"To prove that there is room for French players in this field and to be recognized as a leader in this industry dedicated to genomic therapies. To achieve this, David is convinced that corporate culture will play a key role.  

In this sense, the subject of 'people' has taken on a lot of importance and meaning in recent weeks at Whitelab Genomics.  

Vision and culture workshops, cohesion seminars, recruiting and refresher courses are all underway.  

Indeed, one of the biggest concerns of the associates is recruitment. "You can solve technical mistakes quickly enough, but getting the ‘people side’ wrong for a long time can cost you a lot of money," says David.  

Yet, recruiting is vital, especially since the entrepreneur confides to us that he has a lot to learn from the different generations, especially the younger ones who master the new tools and speak the language the startup needs. So it is essential not to scale too quickly and not to give in to the frantic pace of hypergrowth.  

That's why the partners are focusing on the next recruits, but have also decided to strengthen the links between the current teams. David's dream is that, no matter how big the startup is, the associates will always be able to talk to each other, work closely together and spend quality time together.  

In the end, it's like the personal life of an entrepreneur. You have to know how to find the balance. David tells us that before he became a father, vacations did not exist, they were a waste of time on the road to development. Then, 2 children later, he had to change his way of life. Today, he does not regret taking this time, where he can breathe, enjoy his loved ones and also think, more calmly, about the next step, about his objectives.  

Very sporty, David confides to us that the life of a company is quite similar to his experience in triathlon. Sometimes, it is so hard that we question everything: exhaustion, desire to let go. Then we realize that we are surrounded, encouraged and we know that there is a finish line, worth reaching.  

So David is quite confident for the future and expresses a lot of wishes and goals for the weeks and years to come. He knows that with his partner, Julien, and his team, he has the necessary cards to get where they want to go. 



This exchange allows us to realize that entrepreneurship is not necessarily something that comes naturally. In David’s situation, for example, it took 15 years. When Vincent asks him what advice he would have for an entrepreneur who is hesitating to start, he says that it's a matter of timing and intuition. Sometimes it may not be the right time. However, even if it's scary, even if it represents a lot of commitment, David reminds us that it's an adventure, with a lot of meaning and that it's worth living.  

So if you are an entrepreneur or you are still hesitating to start, we hope that you have enjoyed this podcast and this forum.  

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