By Kelly Lea
Oxfordshire couple and co-founders of PlayDNA, Dr. Samantha Decombel and Dr. Stuart Grice, were seen on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den last night pitching for £50,000 investment in their business which creates artwork from DNA at Cherwell Innovation Centre.
Together for 17 years, the couple had an attractive business proposition if only the expert panel of entrepreneurs were able to keep their mind on the business in hand. Instead, viewers saw the Dragons probing for personal information about Sam and Stuart’s marital status rather than focussing on PlayDNA’s business potential, ending with Peter Jones offering the sum of £50,000 to Stuart if he proposed to Sam on the show.
Undeterred by the TV experience filmed in May 2013, the business savvy couple have recently launched MuscleGenes, a sports specific spin-off company of PlayDNA, established to analyse genes that impact on fat burning, endurance, speed, metabolism and aerobic capacity.
The company already boasts celebrity clients including professional rugby player, Roger Wilson and TV presenter Andi Peters, both of whom have endorsed MuscleGenes via testimonials and social media. Celebrity doctor Dr Christian Jessen of Embarrassing Bodies fame is also known to have taken the test.
Dr. Samantha Decombel explains: “MuscleGenes has taken us to a whole new market. Our sales have already eclipsed PlayDNA in our first few months of trading and we have experienced significant growth and appetite for our product in the UK and US. We feel Duncan Bannatyne definitely missed a trick by not looking at the bigger picture, especially with his knowledge of the sports sector.”
The MuscleGenes test focuses solely on the information contained within an individuals DNA to help fine tune training programmes, performance and nutritional advice, with no artwork involved.
The idea for MuscleGenes came about shortly after the den experience in a chance meeting with co-founder, Dr. Dan Reardon, a medic and former personal trainer.
Within 3 months MuscleGenes was formed and the impact was immediate. “Our sales went through the roof and we had to take the product off sale because we couldn’t manage the demand!” says Dr. Samantha Decombel. “In May, we were despondently walking out the den without investment. By September, we were in Vegas at the Mr Olympia event swabbing 8-times Mr Olympia Ronnie Coleman!”
The team is already five strong with plans to recruit an additional two people to join the Cherwell Innovation Centre HQ following further investment in high-throughput equipment. Commenting on her journey to date, Dr. Samantha Decombel continues: “It is difficult for scientists to have the ability to start-up a company due to the significant investment needed in lab space and equipment. We have been very lucky to discover Cherwell Innovation Centre, as rather than funding an entire lab, we have been able to just rent a bench in addition to sharing equipment and office space with scientists who are in a similar situation. This has enabled us to invest in other areas, such as our branding and marketing, vital for product sales and the success of the business.”
Cherwell Innovation Centre is one of the only facilities in Oxfordshire to provide a flexible agreement for start-ups interested in lab space, office space and meeting room facilities.
MuscleGenes new website is now live with the aim of capitalising from primetime TV exposure gained through the Dragons Den appearance. To find out more about the company and how genetics can help improve your sports performance, visit: musclegenes.com. Alternatively, visit PlayDNA for a family DNA portrait.
For people intrigued by the Dragons’ probing into Sam and Stuart’s personal life, the University of Oxford DPhil Geneticist proposed to his business partner and girlfriend last November in Stratford-upon-Avon, the location of their first date just before Sam’s 16th birthday. The couple are now both 33. Dr. Samantha Decombel concludes: “We are (finally!) very happily engaged to be married and after 17 years of waiting I wouldn’t swap Stuart’s eventual proposal for any amount of Peter’s money, it was much more romantic than a TV studio!”