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Turning Issues into Opportunities

A Slice on James Xia, Founder and President of GenoSensor

Making pivots is a common move in the startup world, but maybe not to the extent of James Xia’s pivots with GenoSensor. Coming from a Ph.D. and postdoc, Xia transitioned into the industry side of biotechnology in 2003 when founding his own company. After many pivots, GenoSensor currently has multiple divisions, including diagnostics, education, life sciences research and microRNA analysis. 

When Xia and his team started GenoSensor in 2003, what they were doing with microRNA analysis was a very new science. Because of this, their business was growing fast up until 2010 when they started seeing a decline. They had two options: find a fund to save them, or save themselves. They chose the latter and started introducing other product lines. The education division was born, with the goal of introducing biotechnology skills (especially modern technology, rather than the outdated information typically being taught) to the classroom at a younger age. 

Fast forward 10 years, and the world was faced with a pandemic. With schools closing and so much uncertainty, Xia and his team decided they could use their skills to help. They expanded into diagnostics and developed a new product line: COVID-19 testing kits. They quickly developed a testing kit and received FDA approval to get it on the market. Luckily, as a smaller company, GenoSensor is able to make these quick pivots to stay relevant. 

Another thing in their favor is location. Being located in Phoenix, Arizona, GenoSensor is near many big hospitals and universities serving both clients and talent sources. While Arizona may not have as extensive of resources as the Bay Area, it’s much more affordable for smaller companies, especially those in science needing real estate for labs. Xia also travels outside of Arizona at times when needing to make connections for fundraising (and to get away from the heat). 

When building his team, Xia learned he needed to find people with skills he didn’t have to create a balance. Xia is a very technical person and loves developing new technologies, but isn’t an expert when it comes to marketing and sales. As an entrepreneur, it can be tempting to try and do everything yourself. From his own experience, Xia emphasizes that “one person cannot do everything”, and with patience, you’ll be able to find partners who can balance your own skillset. Besides finding good partners, Xia also attributes good communication with potential buyers or competitors to the success of GenoSensor. Particularly in biotechnology, Xia has found that competitors can become buyers themselves if you’re able to license your technology to them.

Looking ahead, Xia’s main goal for himself and GenoSensor is to keep moving up. Recognizing that hardships will undoubtedly arise, he looks to continue innovating and utilizing his skills and agency as an entrepreneur to address problems in the world.

Instead of backing away from issues, Xia and his team think, “Can we do something?” If the answer is yes, they “turn the issues into opportunities.”

Founder Bio

James Xia received his PhD and completed his postdoctoral before becoming an entrepreneur in 2003 when founding GenoSensor. Xia is passionate about life sciences research and biotechnology, and empowering the next generation through modernizing education in these spheres of science. Connect with Xia on LinkedIn.

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