Dr Sam Decombel

Dr Sam Decombel

Chief Executive Officer, FitnessGenes Ltd

Course: Biological Sciences (Genetics), 2007

Sam can help students interested in sport, science and entrepreneurship.

Dr Samantha Decombel is a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of FitnessGenes Ltd, a direct-to-consumer DNA testing company and world leader in the analysis of genetic and environmental data as applied to fitness and nutrition.

Using the combination of their customer's DNA and lifestyle data such as age, weight and activity levels, they provide their customers with proactive lifestyle recommendations to help them achieve their fitness goals, rather than simply identifying risks to their health.

FitnessGenes was many years in the making, and built on the platform developed under Sam’s first start up, DNA artwork company PlayDNA Ltd. With a PhD in Genetics from the University of Birmingham and several years working as a Technology Transfer Manager at both Birmingham and the University of Reading, her skillset in science, and experience gained in intellectual property and business were an ideal combination.

Sam’s successes with PlayDNA have been featured in publications as diverse as Forbes magazine, Lab Times and BBC radio, and she has even ventured into the BBC2 Dragons Den itself. Although not successful in securing funding from the dragons (despite Peter Jones being a fan of the artwork!), Sam was able to use the associated publicity to raise the profile of her latest genetic testing startup, FitnessGenes Ltd.

Founded in 2013, due to pre-existing channels to market FitnessGenes was an outstanding success from the start, with celebrity clients boosting publicity and appetite for the product in the US and UK. To date, Sam and her co-founders have raised over £5M in investment funding and been awarded three government grants totalling over £280k. They published their first academic paper on the FTO gene in collaboration with Loughborough University in 2018.

A fierce proponent of equality, Sam found herself on national media in December 2015 prior to the birth of her first child after her battle over a pregnancy discrimination case with the EU Commission went viral, spawning a twitter fight back and earning her the hashtag #7monthsawesome, which was used to share hundreds of stories of the amazing things women were doing during the later stages of pregnancy! Unsurprisingly, the backlash caused as a result led to a swift conclusion and the EU Commission published a full-page apology online shortly afterwards. Sam continues to campaign on and support others in encouraging progress towards a fairer, more flexible and more productive working environment for all.

In 2018, she received the Alumna of the Year award from the University of Birmingham to recognise both her entrepreneurial successes, and the positive role she is playing in tackling discrimination and giving back to the community by supporting the development of young people through training and mentoring, something she is passionate about.

To seek Sam's support, apply now to the Alumni Leadership Mentoring programme.

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