... was to launch DNA Clinics, where people get face-to-face consulting and counselling support. Generally, most testing for DNA paternity and siblingship is done via a web-based mailing system - people order tests over the internet or through a solicitor and then laboratories mail out swab kits. You don't get any face-to-face consultation.
We thought the industry wasn't dealing properly with these life-changing tests, so we set up DNA Clinics. I didn't want to create a faceless company. I'd worked in clinics before where, on the NHS, you got counselling if you wanted a genetic test for a medical reason. But on the private side of the industry, there wasn't anything, so I feel more proud of our product than if we just sold kits over the internet and wrote letters telling people their results.
The concept is so unique, which gives us a niche in the market. We launched the first clinic in Liverpool in 2005 and, as the first of its kind in Europe, it got a lot of press. We've got 37 clinics now, and we're launching another six in the next few months.
- My worst...
When we went to launch the first DNA Clinic in Liverpool, we knew there'd be press interest because of the uniqueness of the idea. We'd been approached by the local media, but I don't think we were prepared for just how much interest there was. It was massive - we were even approached by Tonight with Trevor McDonald.
Because of the expense of our business model and of the clinics, we wanted to watch all the funding closely, so we didn't take on public relations personnel. We thought we'd just give a few interviews to the newspapers. Looking back at it, we missed out on so much advertising and free publicity because we didn't know how to handle it. We didn't utilise even a third of what we could have done.
As a scientist, it was a bizarre situation for me to be in. Coming from a science background, we were a bit naive, but we learned pretty quickly how important PR can be. Now every time we launch one of our DNA clinics, we have a PR company that handles it.