Imagine being able to customize drugs to your genes. His company is making it happen.
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Cyril Moukarzel, co-founder and CEO of LifeDNA, a biotechnology company focused on improving lives using genetics. It was condensed by The Oracles.
Who are you?
Cyril Moukarzel: I am the co-founder and CEO of LifeDNA, a biotechnology company focused on improving lives using genetics. My mission is to save lives by creating the future of personalized medicine using the human genome as a blueprint.
Today’s one-size-fits-all approach to medicine is ineffective and dangerous. Adverse drug reactions are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. The fundamental reason is the lack of personalization. We are all different, and what makes us different is a combination of our lifestyle, environment, and most importantly, our genetics. Our DNA is the blueprint of our lives, and understanding it is the key to living healthier and longer.
Share an interesting fact about yourself that not many people would know.
Cyril Moukarzel: I moved to Canada from Lebanon at the age of 11. I didn’t speak a single word of English, which made my first year of school very challenging. Adjusting to a completely different culture at an early age forced me to be flexible when faced with sudden changes, a skill that continues to serve me well today.
When I was 14, I started my first business selling clothes and shoes to my friends and teachers. I loved it and immediately discovered my passion for entrepreneurship. I learned that life is full of obstacles that you have to overcome and how to be resilient and persistent.
What excites you the most about your business right now?
Cyril Moukarzel: What really excites me about LifeDNA is that we are creating the future of DNA-personalized medicine. Our groundbreaking research is helping us understand the human genome and its impact on health, drug therapy, and disease on a deeper level.
Imagine being able to customize drugs, drug dosages, and medical treatments to your own genetic makeup. Understanding the human genome this way will eventually lead us to solutions that can help prevent or even reverse certain diseases.
We have the potential to save millions of lives over the course of the next decade. If that’s not something to be excited about, I don’t know what is.
What’s your favorite quote?
Cyril Moukarzel: “The best way to predict the future is to create it,” which has been attributed to both Abraham Lincoln and Peter Drucker. The world is how it is today because of entrepreneurs and innovators who dared to challenge the status quo. They believed they could change the world — and they did.
The world will look different 20 years from now. New technologies will exist, new companies will be built, and new innovations will continue to push the limits of what we call reality. Who will create those things? The entrepreneurs of today. We are here to create the future and shape the environment where our children and grandchildren will live.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Cyril Moukarzel: Life is a big adventure full of challenges and obstacles. You will fail many times, but what’s important is that you get up from every fall and learn from your shortcomings. You’ll be stronger and wiser thanks to these obstacles. Persistence is the key to success, so never give up.
Surround yourself with people who care about you and help you grow. Stay away from negative people who bring you down.
Life is short — much shorter than you think. Time flies, so cherish it and appreciate the little, simple things that make you happy. Start meditating right away because it will change your life. Most importantly, be grateful.
How do you define great leadership?
Cyril Moukarzel: A great leader is simply someone who knows how to give their team members a sense of purpose and the power to make a difference.
Smart people are increasingly motivated by a sense of purpose. They want to feel appreciated and to know that they’re making a difference. Your goal as a leader is to help them grow and become better versions of themselves — and then stay out of their way.
How do you hire top talent?
Cyril Moukarzel: “Talent” is a misleading term. No one is born with exceptional business skills. There aren’t any accounting prodigies.
Instead of talent, I look for those who are resilient. Those who are open to new challenges and more responsibility. Someone with a growth mentality will be a better employee with every passing year. If you focus on finding someone with a skill set you need now, you might end up with a team of people who look good on paper but can’t adapt.
Of course, you want a team with complementary skills, but the most important thing is that everyone is willing to learn, grow, and push themselves. If they have those qualities, they can adapt to any challenge.
How do you prevent burnout?
Cyril Moukarzel: When you have a sense of purpose, it’s much harder to burn out. Doing what you love is healthy for your brain. But it’s not just about feeling better; it can actually increase your alertness and productivity.
I personally enjoy working on my company. It’s fun. Seeing it grow and getting in touch with the people we’re helping is an incredible feeling.
That said, I’m still human and need a break once in a while. I typically stop working around 7 p.m. That’s when I work out, take dance classes, read, or just hang out with good people. I also take a full day off every Saturday to recharge and come back stronger the next week.
What are you working on right now?
Cyril Moukarzel: I just got off a call with my science team about creating our pharmacogenomics platform and reports. Pharmacogenomics is the study of how our genes affect our reactions to different drugs.
We’re building a genomics platform that studies the impact of DNA on nutrition, fitness, and drug metabolism, ultimately leading to the personalization of health, wellness, and medicine. This is incredibly exciting, as it gets us closer to our grand vision of saving lives by creating the future of personalized medicine.
What do you want to be known for, or what do you want your legacy to be?
Cyril Moukarzel: I want to be known for creating the future of medicine and helping people live healthier, longer, and more fulfilling lives. The science behind genetics and genomics is rapidly evolving every single day. We’re starting to understand that our DNA has a massive impact on our health and wellness. The next step is to start incorporating this knowledge into medicine and our everyday lives.
For me, LifeDNA is less about revolutionizing DNA testing and more about simply changing people’s perspectives. DNA testing isn’t just about your ancestry. It can drastically help you live a better life — and maybe even a longer one.