587 Gitte Pedersen:

2020 was the penultimate year of the business pivot as a global pandemic proliferated and companies… had to think on their feet … running from problems … or towards opportunities.

MELINDA

I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who was swift to see an opportunity to leverage her groundbreaking RNA sequencing technology … to create a rapid covid test.

Gitte Pedersen is a scientist and the co-founder and CEO of Genomic Expression – a company she founded with her brother Morten after their parents were diagnosed with cancer. She has pioneered something truly extraordinary in the race to cure cancer – leveraging RNA – much like some of the Covid vaccines. Gitte has had a very busy year and there is so much to talk about, so I can’t wait for our conversation! First…

Gitte Pedersen says her parents raised her to believe she could do anything – and when they were diagnosed with cancer, Gitte and her brother Morten took the lesson to heart.

Morten developed a way to sequence RNA in tumor tissue and connect alterations to already approved drugs and clinical studies while Gitte raised almost $15M in grants, to clinically validate their technology for 4 types of cancer. The OneRNA™ platform enables a paradigm shift from ONE disease, ONE marker, and ONE drug to ONE patient, MANY markers, and MULTIPLE treatment options that go beyond drugs.

The promise of Genomic Expression’s personalized solution is staggering – and that’s how Gitte ended up presenting it to Sir Richard Branson on his beautiful Necker Island, won the Lyfebulb and the EU Top50 awards, became a semi-Finalist for the XPRIZE and presented at the European Parliament.

Then came covid and Gitte and her brother seized on a new opportunity – to create a rapid over-the-counter covid test leveraging their RNA sequencing technology. Today she shares the story of their rapid growth in the pandemic – plus her mission to personalize medicine at scale.

So much to talk about – and you won’t want to miss this because Gitte is an expert at bringing new health and medical technologies to market – advising a number of small and medium sized biotech companies and brought numerous products to market as an executive at Novo Nordisk. Gitte is also passionate about investing in other female founders and recently joined Pipeline Angels and made her first angel investment. She also co-founded Female Equity, a network organization for female founders and investors – like me – having fun and talking funding while paddle boarding.

So let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Gitte Pedersen.

Melinda Wittstock:         Gitte, Welcome to Wings.

Gitte Pedersen:                Thank you. Thank you so much for inviting me again. I’m so excited about this.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, it’s great to have you back because you were one of my very first guests. I’m not sure whether you’re in the first 10 or the first 20 now that we’re up at almost 600 episodes.

Gitte Pedersen:                Wow, I’m impressed. Super impressed.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, it’s been a lot, especially when you run and scale another business at the same time as you’re doing a podcast. But I’m really excited about all that’s been going on for you because COVID presented entrepreneurs with a lot of opportunity to pivot. And, of course, you did in the COVID space and COVID testing and catch me up what all you’ve been doing.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yes, I’d love to.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes.

Gitte Pedersen:                It was crazy because I came back from JPMorgan. We had one of the best JPMorgan’s out there, I had many very significant large VCs being interested. And then I came back to New York, I had upper respiratory illness. And listening to the news quickly realized that it could be something more than just a flu or cold, and try to get a COVID test was impossible. And at that moment, I knew something was wrong. I knew first of all, because I’m a scientist, I’ve read the [inaudible 00:01:42], I knew we were due for a pandemic. And we can’t control it. We can’t manage it if we can’t test it.

So, I called up my co-founder, my younger brother, and said, “Listen, we have to start COVID testing right now. There’s not enough tests out there, you can’t get tested.” And, of course, he said no first, because it’s a distraction. You’re focused on doing your regular job or the milestones in the business that we’re in with cancer diagnostics, very important. But then I called him again over the weekend, I said, “No, we really need to step up here because there’s not enough tests out there.”

Melinda Wittstock:         So how long did it take you from that idea to getting a COVID test out into the world? What’s the status of it right now?

Gitte Pedersen:                We’ll be scaling it at this point. I can’t track why I got invited to the first town hall meeting with the FDA. And you could ask the FDA questions. It was that unusual times. I already in my head had this vision that we wanted to create something that you could just ship up in a box. And people could take a test and ship it back to our CLIA lab. I asked the FDA at that meeting are there any FDA-approved collection devices? And the answer was no.

So, I knew that there was a lot of work to be done. In addition, the other piece of information was that because it was such a problem, the amount of validation was very straightforward using contrived samples and synthetic RNA, we were able to validate that we could detect COVID-19 and launch it.

So from the moment we actually made the decision and had the plan. And again, the FDA was very good at providing very clear guidelines, in terms of what they needed. We had completed that validation in less than two weeks.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s amazing. In two weeks?

Gitte Pedersen:                Yes, in two weeks.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wow.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah. But it was also everybody’s hands on deck. It was literally 180 degree, everybody worked on it. Once you start working on something and you’re an innovator, you start thinking, “Oh, we can do this better.” Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gitte Pedersen:                Especially my co-founder, my brother, has this amazing superpower of where he’s able to pull information in nucleic acids, DNA, RNA, and chemistries developed with these new chemistries using enzymes. We’ve been doing next-gen sequencing for five years and going back to do PCR cycling from college to kindergarten. So he’s like, “PCR is so inefficient when it comes to scaling, you can only do 100 tests per instrument maximum.” And then, of course, we can buy more instruments. And for this, it’s just a limiting platform.

So, he went to the drawing board and invented a new chemistry where we can scale to 1,000 on the small sequencer, and maybe 50,000 on the next sequencer, 50,000 tests per day.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s amazing.

Gitte Pedersen:                It is amazing.

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s so interesting how pandemics or just adverse circumstances generally bring out the best in the best entrepreneurs, because what you’ve just described is just getting that intuitive or getting that hit, that there’s an opportunity here, we’re well placed to go do it. And then everyone rolling up their sleeves, the innovation, the speed to market with a solution that solves people’s pain. This is just something that a lot of entrepreneurs lose sight of. This basic thing.

Gitte Pedersen:                I will say, though, that if you are a big company, you have to schedule a board meeting, you have to sit and argue with the boards, you do [inaudible 00:06:29] your focus. We skipped all of that because we still [crosstalk 00:06:35]

Melinda Wittstock:         Because you can.

Gitte Pedersen:                Because we can. So there was really no friction once I got him on board, of course, to execution, and that decision-making process was very smooth. Then we just did it.

Melinda Wittstock:         So what about [inaudible 00:06:52] now? How many of these tests do you have out in the world?

Gitte Pedersen:                Well, again, once you start working on it, there’s more hurdles. And we recognize many friction points in delivering of this vision to patients.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. The whole supply chain issue around all things COVID is just seems like such a mess.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yes. It was really crazy. So, I still remember the call I had with Roche where I wanted to buy one of their machines for 700,000, and they wouldn’t sell it to me. They didn’t have any reagents for it, either. So, the supply chain was completely broken. And looking back at it, I understand why because the total PCR market went from 4 billion to 24 billion in three months.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wow.

Gitte Pedersen:                You can just imagine, and then you couldn’t buy any reagents which were on anybody’s UA. And that was why the next decision was really, we had to find our own UA. We had to validate our own test, because we couldn’t buy it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Gitte Pedersen:                So that’s the kind of innovation you have to do under these extreme conditions.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly. Well, this is where entrepreneurship is a journey. Because once you start, there’s always new things that you’re discovering, new ways you can improve but they’re always roadblocks. The roadblocks, I’ve come to see as opportunities. It’s a real mindset game. So, I just imagine you, Gitte, just working just around the clock now for the past year. Have you had time to look after yourself or do basic [crosstalk 00:08:58]?

Gitte Pedersen:                No. I always been very good at exercising and taking good care of my health. And I always prioritize that. But what I have not had time to spend the quality time taking vacations or any of that, so [inaudible 00:09:21] with my family. Thank God my husband have been completely supportive throughout this period. We have a daughter who was through the process of applying for college. And he took completely over that process because I didn’t have bandwidth for it.

So, one of the most important things for female entrepreneurs to marry the right man. And he really stepped up.

Melinda Wittstock:         I remember talking about this the first time you came on Wings that if you really do need not only a supportive partner but an ecosystem around you that really has your back and wants you to succeed because women, we’re already acculturated to try and serve everybody else before ourselves. And it’s so easy to neglect [crosstalk 00:10:19].

Gitte Pedersen:                I wasn’t educated that way. I wasn’t trained that way. And I understand that the Danish culture is different. My mom never told me that I was secondary to anybody and that I had responsibilities that was different than a man in a family. Let’s put it this way. I had to train my American man a little bit in what that meant.

Melinda Wittstock:         A little bit of Danish culture [crosstalk 00:10:54].

Gitte Pedersen:                Yes. But I think it worked out for us because his mom was very first-generation immigrant from Colombia. And she was just an incredibly strong woman. And she supported her family. Her husband was much older and didn’t really work. So, she was supporting her family and he was used to women being strong and taking charge, and he rolled with it. Let’s put it that way.

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, that’s amazing. You’re doing such important things in the world. So, going back to COVID, for a moment, where do you see it all playing out? What’s the ecosystem that you’re playing in now? What are the challenges that you have now?

Gitte Pedersen:                So, just because you mentioned working crazy hours, and you just very narrowly focused on just getting the test done and getting it out there. So, we took a company that was mostly grant-funded, and we’re doing research where we didn’t have any aggressive timelines to a company that was full-fledged diagnostic commercial entity, build the back end informatics. We had to do all these things while we were selling tips. It was crazy. But now we’re cash flowing.

It’s just crazy how quickly we were able to grow from 0 to 100. And now, in January, I started realizing I have to take my nose out of the very narrow track and take a look at what’s going to happen next. And how can I see us leverage all this work going forward? What I see now is a completely different healthcare system. I don’t know if you ever had the opportunity to take advantage of Telehealth.

Just yesterday, I had a problem. I needed a prescription for antibiotics, so I knew what was going on. And my doctor couldn’t see me. And I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine.” Then they called Telehealth. And five minutes later, I had the doctor on the call clearing off prescription needed and sent to the pharmacy just down the road. An hour later I had my prescription.

So, the amount of friction that we have created in our system to schedule appointments, get appointments, go there physically. And then at that moment, you start testing and two weeks later, you have a diagnosis and a prescription. All of that can be collapsed into hours using Telehealth and effective tests.

Melinda Wittstock:         So true. This is a really interesting thing that pandemics tend to do historically, is they shine a light on all the stuff that’s broken. And man, there’s a lot of broken stuff. So this is one of them, health care, we could talk about education, we can talk about transportation, there’s so many different things.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         So now I sense maybe another division of your business coming along.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah. So, because we developed this platform, and we always focus on RNA Diagnostics, we now can see how RNAs really, with the biggest proof of concept the planet ever seen on a new treatment modality on a therapeutics and on a vaccine from Moderna and Pfizer that we can detect disease, monitor health, and to sign next-generation cures by analyzing RNA. It’s that simple.

Melinda Wittstock:         So, this original thing, this original idea that you had about RNA being the key to curing cancer, it turns out that RNA is much more than that. A lot of these vaccines, whether it’s the Moderna or the Pfizer or whatever, have an RNA component.

Gitte Pedersen:                It is the therapeutic entity. It’s a piece of RNA. When Moderna launched, nobody thought it was possible, because RNA is not as stable as DNA. We had DNA vaccines. Nobody thought it was possible to get into cells and to get them to work there as therapeutics, but it works.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so, did you see that as validation?

Gitte Pedersen:                Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         At the time that it comes [inaudible 00:16:04] all this work for many years in RNA. So suddenly, the Moderna vaccine comes out, what were you thinking?

Gitte Pedersen:                I was so excited. I got these emails where people… I understand that you have to be careful with new technology and critical. But these vaccines have been thoroughly tested, and no adverse effects of any significance have been found. From a technical standpoint… I come from the protein world with Novo Nordisk, with therapeutic proteins, like insulin-producing human proteins in yeast, or other cells. And it’s never exactly the same protein because it’s produced by a small microorganism, and it doesn’t get glycosylated and it doesn’t get produced exactly the same way.

Here, we have a system where you plot the RNA into the human cell inside the body, and it produces the protein exactly like it should be because it’s human cells that does it. So, I actually think this is much less risky from a biological standpoint, but I understand every time we come up with new technologies, and we saw that with antibodies that had some severe negative effect in the beginning because they were not fully humanized. But then they solved that. Right now, therapeutic antibodies is a multi-billion dollar business. I could [crosstalk 00:17:53]

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, everything that’s new makes people nervous. People are afraid of change generally, right?

Gitte Pedersen:                Right. But again, we have sometimes many mistakes. So, it is okay to be reluctant and really slow when you start implementing these new technologies. But when you have a proof of concept at this scale, and so many millions of people have been vaccinated without any significant adverse effects. So back to what I said in the beginning of this part of the conversation, this is the biggest proof of concept that this is safe and effective.

So in contrast to when you develop proteins drugs, you have to take the code and then put it into a microorganism, then you have to optimize the fermentation. Mind you, I did this at Novo Nordisk, I know this. It takes years. The fact that you can take the code and that is the block and then just manufacture it without these interim steps, makes it much faster to go from code, which is basically just information you get off the sequencer to a therapeutics.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, hence the speed to market of these vaccines, which I think shocked a lot of people is normally five years was the… I remember reading somewhere that five years was the shortest period up until-

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah, never been done before.

Melinda Wittstock:         So when that Moderna announcement came out, and suddenly RNA and it’s in the process of being proven as a therapeutic. What does that do for the cancer area of your business now?

Gitte Pedersen:                Great question. Thank you for this. Because what it really does it provides the opportunity as I see it. My co-founder and I, Morten and I, haven’t talked about this a lot, but we believe that it’s totally possible to create a personalized RNA vaccine to your cancer. And the pieces of that technology, it would take maybe a year right now to validate that. Maybe you have to collapse certain things because it’s completely personalized, and you only use it for one person.

We are at a point where you may be able to do certain things completely different. I couldn’t imagine you get your tumor analyzed, and then immediately, you push a button, then it see information, this is the RNA that could potentially trigger an immune response. And then you could use the RNA vaccine, and give it within months, not years.

Melinda Wittstock:         And it’s also got the business challenge around scaling a personalized solution as well. How do you look at that particular challenge with your business? Because I see a lot of medicine moving towards personalization. I know that I take vitamins that were personalized for me based on what… So, really very personalized approach to my health. But it’s not covered by health insurance. I just have the privilege and the luxury of being able to do this, and the connections to be able to do it. But I believe that that kind of personalization should be available to everyone, but how do you do that at scale, especially in the context of cancer?

Gitte Pedersen:                Right. So, you’re touching upon something that is super important. We built the platform so we can provide the information at scale. The platform that we build, the RNA platform for analyzing any biological sample using next-gen sequencing in any kind of sample is completely scalable.

In order to translate that into an RNA therapeutics, instead of a mainframe, you need a personalized DNA or RNA printer. And that technology is actually something that more than again, I have invented some new chemistry and we spun it up because it’s a separate company and got a grant-funded.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s amazing.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah. When I said we hadn’t talked a lot about is because the hurdles to convince anybody that this is really obtainable in a society where it takes 10 years to approve a drug, it’s uphill. And again, a lot of the ideas that we have, we wouldn’t be able to get VC funded or investors, we had to find grants for it and then prove it works. Because VCs are risk adverse.

Melinda Wittstock:         They are very risk adverse. They want to put their money into something that’s already proven like they’re not the… they’ve become bankers.

Gitte Pedersen:                Well, they are. And I understand them. But I think that we need another system at this point. Because when you have people that are visionary, and I just blanked out on his name, the Tesla guy.

Melinda Wittstock:         [inaudible 00:23:58] innovators.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         Because innovation is risky, so there [inaudible 00:24:04]

Gitte Pedersen:                It is risky. But you can also say that if the pain point is so significant, and here when we talk cancer, people are still dying from it and we have tried to solve this for more than half a century and we’re still not there. And because we live longer, we’re all going to die from cancer, we just don’t figure this out.

So, if you have a problem of this magnitude, you have to be willing to take risk. Okay, you can take it in steps. Now we have a commercial solution, we’re scaling and we deal with the RNA analysis part of it. This other thing is still very risky.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, because you’re innovating not only on the medicine, the science, all of that, but you’re also innovating business model and insofar as you’re going through this personalized solution, I understand the link now between why you would want to think about revolutionizing the way healthcare is actually delivered as well because that piece would have to be in place to be able to allow those personalized solutions. So I’m seeing how it’s all connecting now. Your work is never going to be done, my dear.

Gitte Pedersen:                I know. It’s a little scary. But you know what, one of the great things about being an entrepreneur and I actually met this little mountain, there’s all these milestones that you reach, and there’s always another mountain afterwards. So your work is never completely done. But it’s so gratifying being able to take that journey and get to that point.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s the joy of entrepreneurship. That’s the thing. I see so many people going into entrepreneurship without having the entrepreneurial, I’ll say, DNA, or perhaps entrepreneurial RNA-

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah, that’s what we call it.

Melinda Wittstock:         … Entrepreneurial RNA to actually be of the mindset where those challenges are actually joyful. Where you actually really enjoy the challenge. And it’s a journey and your work isn’t ever done, because there’s always something new to go solve and tackle. I do see a lot of entrepreneurs going into it thinking that it’s some sort of destination, like they’ll arrive somewhere and be happy and it doesn’t really work that way.

Gitte Pedersen:                No. I’ve read The Road Less Traveled.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, yeah, years ago, I remember reading that. Years ago, [inaudible 00:26:50]

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah, it was really a good book for me back then because it teaches you that you have to enjoy the journey. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’re just never going to be really happy. So it’s a lot about finding gratitude in all these little milestones that you are able to achieve. And ultimately, it’s really also for me, the impact that you can have on patients have always been the main drivers of what we do also to a point where we bend our backwards to deliver. So we didn’t talk a lot about it, but we get the test results in less than eight hours. We say 24, it never taken us 24 hours to report the results. Several days later, you want the answer now.

Melinda Wittstock:         Exactly. With testing, when I think of what happened in this country with the Coronavirus, how badly it was handled, had the government really had a organized response to just make sure that everyone was being tested and fix the supply chain around that. There’s so many things as an entrepreneur looks at the government and the inefficiency or just how it was handled last year, so many lives could have been saved. [crosstalk 00:28:25]

Gitte Pedersen:                Well, my hottest point was this whole lying pot.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes.

Gitte Pedersen:                Not being honest about what was going on. I really have a very hard time with that part of it and not being science-driven. Being a scientist and seeing science being dismissed.

Melinda Wittstock:         [inaudible 00:28:48]

Gitte Pedersen:                I’m such a big fan of Fauci. I don’t know how he, on a very human personal level, was able to really survive that. It’s just amazing. So I see a lot of heroes coming out of that process and a lot of learning coming out of that process. There will be so many books written about this.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, absolutely. Like the attack on science, the attack on truth, on fact, made my head spin.

Gitte Pedersen:                Oh, it made me angry. Because I think that it’s impossible for us to navigate. It’s back to, “Oh, the world is flat.” No, it’s not. We need to have a common truth about what’s facts and what’s not. And when leadership doesn’t adhere to that, then people get confused. And that is really problematic.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah. No, it sure is. I remember the last time I saw you, Gitte, in person, you were spinning up this great organization called Female Equity. Both of us have in common many female entrepreneurs that just it still remains a hurdle for female founders with scalable, venture-qualified businesses to get funding. How’s that piece of it going for you? Are you having more success in that funding thing? How’s Female Equity going? Are you seeing a change there?

Gitte Pedersen:                I think that Female Equity has been very helpful for me and the women that [inaudible 00:30:38] It was an amazing weekend.

Melinda Wittstock:         It was. I loved it.

Gitte Pedersen:                Being able to share your experiences and also join forces and say, “We want to help each other, get over these hurdles.” And not play the victim in whatever situation we’re in, and then lift each other up. I think that was what came out of that weekend. And it was amazing to see that women were really bonding over that opportunity. I’ve been very busy since and we do need, once COVID is over, to get back to having another weekend where we can go back and see so what happened during the two years that we haven’t seen each other? And how can we further improve it?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, so much.

Melinda Wittstock:         One of the things that I’ve noticed, though, is that women entrepreneurs, we get really busy, we get so busy that sometimes there’s so little time left, it’s a time question because we do have to help each other, and somehow reserve the time in our day to pay it forward to other women. Because I think when women are doing that, we all soar higher. So it remains a real mission of mine with this podcast, and then the retreats… we’ve got one coming up in Costa Rica in October of this year, fingers crossed. And the whole idea was to get women entrepreneurs buying each other’s products, promoting each other, mentoring each other, and also investing in each other.

And I thought one of the biggest blocks to that is just the mind space and the time because I think people want to do that. But getting that actually in a structure, where it just becomes part of our day to do that, is easier said than done. Because it’s often the last thing after all the demands on what you have to do to grow your business, be with your family, all of the things. And then on top of that… Oh, yes, right, I need to support other women. How do you manage that? Because it’s tricky.

Gitte Pedersen:                Great question. I will say that I have hosted Female Equity Zoom meetings over the course of the pandemic. And it has been helpful talking to other female entrepreneurs about their experience and how there’s many hurdles raising money in environment where you can’t really meet people. The same thing with going out and selling product. So, you really have to be creative and do things in a different way. And I think, as we all know, when it comes to getting in front of investors, you have to get referrals. And that’s how-

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s the relationship.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah, it’s relationship business. Yap.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so, it’s like we’re building a relationship during the pandemic.

Gitte Pedersen:                And it’s been effective. It had. So, I want to do another follow-up. I wanted to do something after JPMorgan but because of where we are, I just didn’t have the bandwidth to schedule it. But I promise I will do it again. We’ll reconnect on Zoom.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’ll be there.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yes, we will reconnect on Zoom. I think that is basically… And again, I’ll go back to my Danish inheritance and culture. Women would never stop socializing with their girlfriends post the time where they got married or had boyfriends, obviously, there’s a little bit more challenging from a time perspective. But it’s your oxygen. Okay?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah.

Gitte Pedersen:                You need to have your friends, you need to be able to connect. And the narrative just becomes a little different when your friends are also entrepreneurs, you know me to do it better. And some of the other women that participated that weekend, and you talk about other things. You talk about what investors would be a good fit and some board issues and how to communicate to your board, how to communicate to your investors. Those are the kind of conversations you have with other female entrepreneurs. And I think we need that space. That’s why we need Female Equity because we need to connect the dots. It’s not like, I’m going to meet 10 female entrepreneurs walking into a bar. So, we need the network to do that, of course.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. I remember one of my biggest takeaways, I remember we were talking at that first Female Equity event about being in a pitch meeting raising money, and how women tended to be asked questions that put them on the defensive, whereas men were asked about how they were going to maximize growth, women were asked how are you going to minimize risk? And how to change the question with your answer. And I thought that was so powerful because we sometimes get put into a situation where we’re on the defensive, and then that competency gene kicks in where we have to prove ourselves. And men don’t have any of that. So it’s [crosstalk 00:36:53]

Gitte Pedersen:                They’re never being asked those questions. So, the good news is you can train this, you can train how to respond to those questions. I will say one thing, though, because a lot of the stuff is now happening on the phone or on Zoom. And I have had some very great investor calls over the last couple of weeks. We literally went from with one VC from just having the first conversation to, “Okay, we’re going to sign an NDA, please send us the next layer of information.”

But yesterday, I had a call. I don’t know if that was just that person. But I thought a lot about it afterwards because I just couldn’t finish my sentences. This guy was constantly interrupting me. And I don’t think he really understood what I was doing because he wasn’t listening.

Melinda Wittstock:         He wasn’t listening. Yeah, that’s happened to me before too. I’ve [crosstalk 00:37:53]

Gitte Pedersen:                And after we saw Kamala Harris, saying, “I’m speaking,” we’ve been doing that around the family table. We have a very lively conversations around the family table from politics to anything, and interruptions happen. So, we have been starting to say, “I’m speaking,” and you just continue to talk, and just don’t acknowledge that the other person is trying to talk. And that’s another thing that-

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, I found myself in a situation like that, Gitte, it was funny, I found myself just reacting and saying, “I can’t hear you, I’m speaking right now.”

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah. Well, I started using it in certain circumstances. With this first call with investor, it was a little odd that if he’s not interested in hearing what I have to say, and I don’t know if this is how he normally talks with people or not, I don’t think that is going to go anywhere, honestly. I think that once you have that kind of bias even in the first interaction, that sometimes it’s just better for you to-

Melinda Wittstock:         It’s not good chemistry. It’s not just chemistry, it’s not [crosstalk 00:39:18]

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah, just to say, maybe this is not a good fit.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, because I think we have to qualify our investors as much as, do you want to have a seven-year relationship with this particular person? And if the answer is no, branch for the door on that call because it’s not going to work. And what’s extraordinary to me is if they’re assessing an opportunity to not being able to listen means they’re basically missing the opportunity. It makes no sense to me.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah. Right. And maybe I can’t explain why that, maybe he got nervous, I don’t know. Maybe he was normally on the phone with a woman who, I don’t know, trying to explain, at least if I had the opportunity [crosstalk 00:40:02], I don’t know.

Melinda Wittstock:         Either that or it’s just ego or it’s compensating for not knowing and overcompensating.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah, maybe overcompensating.

Melinda Wittstock:         There’s a lot of dynamics like that which is interesting. I’ve had a few calls like that. I found our fundraising efforts have really picked up of late. It was really tricky because we, for [inaudible 00:40:28], started fundraising almost the exact week that the pandemic really hit, last March.

Gitte Pedersen:                It was crazy.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so everything slowed down, it was all just mayhem. And I found that it’s really picked up a lot now. We’ve got a lead on around, we have a whole bunch of things. We have access now to a really cool venture debt instrument where we can borrow significant sums of money at less than 1% interest.

Gitte Pedersen:                You’re kidding me. [crosstalk 00:40:59]

Melinda Wittstock:         Seriously.

Gitte Pedersen:                Because I’m producing cash.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’ll email you about that.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah.

Melinda Wittstock:         So we brought in some nice cash that way, which is nice because it’s non-dilutive.

Gitte Pedersen:                Yeah, exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         So, I think it’s interesting because I think the venture system is broken, like you were saying earlier, and we have to think of new ways of getting a new instruments and whatnot to get women funded. And I think with all the women who are having exits, so important to put that money back into supporting other female founders, I’d like to see that happen a lot more.

Gitte Pedersen:                So, on that note, I think it’s important that we get more women into the financial industry. And it’s something I thought about, as a big hurdle, it’s impossible if, and you know [inaudible 00:41:56] less than 14% female in the venture community, maybe we should just reinvent this whole industry by starting other ways to do these things. And that’s something I’m thinking about actively. So, when things don’t work perfectly, maybe having a conversation on how that should work.

I’m actually a big fan of crowd-funding, and we got approved on the Republic. The reason is that if you have a product, and there’s a convergence between your marketing efforts in terms of selling products and selling a piece of your company, you can actually accelerate your growth.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely.

Gitte Pedersen:                And you get a very solid data point in terms of, is there a market for whatever idea you have, or product? So that’s something that I think is maybe underutilized, is one way of looking at it. I will say that I’m so impressed by certain investors and their track record and understanding the other part, and that’s why I’m back to we really need more women in the financial industry. It’s all about network. You really need to speak to this person. I put in the first time the key, and then when you’re ready, I’m going to make you make an introduction to this VC. So, it’s all in the network. And it’s impossible, just to invest without that infrastructure, and it’s a human network. And that’s why female equality is so important because we need to create that and we need more women in the financial industry. It’s super important.

Melinda Wittstock:         Absolutely. Gosh, Gitte, I’m so glad you came back on again. You’ll have to just come on again later in the year because your progress is so extraordinary.

Gitte Pedersen:                I’d love to.

Melinda Wittstock:         I want to make sure that people know how to find you, connect with you, get your COVID test, all those things, what’s the best way?

Gitte Pedersen:                Well, we obviously have a website, genomicexpression.com in singular and femaleequity.org. Just you can put in your contact info and we will get back to you. If you’re interested in your COVID test, it’s COVID19@genomicexpression.com, and we will get back to you.

Melinda Wittstock:         Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.

Gitte Pedersen:                Oh, wow. I love flying with you. I want to fly some more.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, me too.

Gitte Pedersen:                Thank you. Thank you so much.

Gitte Pedersen
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