Interview | Uirá Souto Melo, PhD CEO and Co-Founder of Lucid Genomics

„Berlin is the best place for AI startups in Germany”


Dr. Uirá Souto Melo, a native Brazilian, did his PhD in the field of genetics at University of São Paulo. In 2018 he moved to Berlin to work as a scientist at the Max-Planck-Institute. His research focused mostly on dark genome, the relatively unknown long stretches of non-coding DNA. In 2024 he and Dr. M-Hossein Moeinzadeh founded the startup company Lucid genomics.


1. Mr. Melo, can you tell us a little bit about your company and what it is that you are doing?

Basically, there are three things that were mandatory for Lucid Genomics to exist. The first part is that there are new technologies, that can sequence DNA at unprecedented level. Now we can extract the information that we were missing on the dark genome so far. The second part is, that DNA is very complex and we needed the help of AI. Now, with deep learning models we can extract the information that is hidden in the DNA and actually make sense of it. And the third part is the knowledge about the dark genome: What exactly is in there? What kind of information can we extract? And how can we understand why people develop specific genetic diseases and cancers?

So, our expertise in the combination of these three things – new sequencing technologies, advances in AI and the knowledge about the dark genome – is the reason we were able to build Lucid genomics.

2. Data privacy is a major concern in the field of genomics. How does Lucid Genomics pro-tect patient data and ensure compliance with regulations?

To create our machine learning tools we work with anonymized data – so we don’t know whose DNA we are looking at. In this sense, any information we can get from individuals’ DNA, can not be traced back to them, which is in accordance with GDPR and other regula-tions. One example is that our cloud-server is hosted in Germany.

3. What prompted you to set up a company right now? What helped you to set up the spin-off?

Two and a half years ago – when we were still in the middle of Corona – I started asking my-self a lot of questions, like what I want in life and what my future could look like. And even though I was a hundred percent sure that my life would be in academia, I decided that I also have a lot of other skills that could be use to go different ways, one of them is to build a company.

There were two reasons why we decided to set up a startup. First, it is very important that the technology we built so far was developed quickly, because otherwise people could copy it. On the other hand, we had to motivate the team at the Max-Planck-Institute and convince these very talented computational biologists that we were building something big that

would revolutionize the world. So we needed to get on the fast track and into a setting that is less bureaucratic – something that you can find only in the startup environment.

And the Max-Planck-Society helped us tremendously from the beginning. They have an ac-celeration programme called MAX!mize and we are lucky to be a part of it. They arranged mentorships in different areas of business, genomics and healthcare and they also granted us some money to hire the team and develop the technology. We also use the services of Berlin Partner, e.g. to relocate a colleague from abroad or to identify and apply suitable pub-lic grants.

4. Is there a reason why you set up Lucid Genomics here in Berlin and what’s your impres-sion of the local AI ecosystem?

We were already based in Berlin and were very well connected with different resources and other AI startups. Berlin is definitely a hub for AI startups, for example the successful startup Aignostics from Charité is also based here in Berlin. There are also a lot of experts in AI at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt Universität whom we are in close contact with. On top of that. we are now one of six companies that became part of K.I.E.Z – an AI Accelerator programme which is located in Berlin. Based on our experience, Berlin is definitely the best place for AI startups in all of Germany.

5. Looking ahead, what are your future plans for Lucid Genomics? How is your participa-tion in the K.I.E.Z. Spring Accelerator this year contributing to the development of your company?

We are very happy to be part of the K.I.E.Z AI programme because they have a very rich mentorship in AI. Also we are sitting at the Merantix-Campus which is great.

In regard to our vision, we know that there is a lot of knowledge within DNA that is not ex-tracted yet. We do believe that in the future we can create digital prints of every human be-ing by collecting data from the DNA. With this data and the help of AI one can create digital twins and use it to predict how the patient will respond to specific drugs. And whenever you need a specific drug, it can be tailored based on the information that we got from your ge-nome. This will also improve the clinical trial success rate.

About: Uirá Souto Melo, PhD CEO and Co-Founder of Lucid Genomics

Uirá Souto Melo completed his master's degree and PhD in genetics at the University of Sao Paulo. He started early to be interested in genetic diseases in humans. In 2018, he began working as a scien-tist at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. There he worked on the still unex-plored parts of human DNA, named dark-genome. From his work there, he and his co-founder, M-Hossein Moeinzadeh, decided to found the startup lucid genomics.

Related Links:

Website Lucid genomics
Website Merantix