Healthcare is a fascinating industry as the start-ups aren’t just building their respective companies, they are helping transform their industry. One such example is Natera

Natera is a leading medical technology company that provides cell-free DNA testing that can predict disease. They specialize in women’s health, oncology and organ health, and have developed a noninvasive way for people to understand their health risks.

Their company reached significant milestones over the years, and along the way, learned to scale while keeping up with the demands of their industry. I had the chance to interview CEO Steve Chapman about the company’s journey from startup to a major leader in medical innovation.

Shama Hyder: What is one tip you learned as a developer of an emerging technology? How can innovators have their ideas heard and what’s required to make new technology more widely accepted?

Steve Chapman: We started work on our non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) technology, Panorama, nearly a decade before it became widely accepted in the market. Our initial vision was that every pregnant woman in the U.S. would be eligible for NIPT, and that professional societies and physicians would advocate for this technology to be available for all pregnant women.

The extensive research we provided around our product was a critical element in our success. In the medical world, this is what matters most, and we proved over and over again that our tests could detect genetic abnormalities with high accuracy as early as 9 weeks of pregnancy. Innovators need to have the facts behind why their product or service will work for their consumers. 

When scaling our business, we identified areas where there were significant unmet clinical needs and where our technology could make an impact. After our success in women’s health took root, we looked to cancer and organ health, and created new technologies that can detect cancer recurrence or monitor the success of an organ transplant.

Hyder: How did you keep your start-up roots while learning to adjust to rapid growth and become a successful business? 

Chapman: We learned how to transition from a start-up environment to a highly scalable growth business by implementing processes that we could rely on as our company grew. We had to put a lot of strategies in place, but wanted to keep that agility and culture of a start-up so that our employees were motivated. Those processes ultimately were the foundation that helped us reach our goals, and the culture is what sustained us through nearly a decade of slow and steady growth. 

Hyder: Now that your technology has become the new leader in the industry, what pieces of wisdom helped you grow from a start-up to a multi-billion dollar business?

Chapman: Working with industry leaders, and drawing from their expertise, helped us push our technology forward. We invested the time and effort into these relationships, and into the clinical data necessary to support changing the standard of care.

When we brought in outside leadership, it amplified the credibility of our work and gave us the opportunity to find placement in top medical journals and be recognized by the FDA three times for breakthrough device recognitions. 

We did this to meet our goals as a business, but also to reach our broader goal of making this care available to every person who needs it. The high-quality data we collected made it possible for our technology to be covered by Medicare. This increases who has access to our tests, and is a core part of our strategy both financially and philanthropically.

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Roland Millaner