Five minutes with Brigette Bard
Brigette Bard is the entrepreneur behind the world’s first CE-marked, at-home HIV test. As the founder and CEO of BioSure, she has helped thousands of people discreetly determine their status. The business recently launched in South Africa and has plans to diversify its kits to include other blood borne virus tests. We spoke with Brigette about going up against billion dollar companies, the future of self-testing and the UN’s goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
- Describe your organisation’s purpose
We are the first company in the world to offer self-test kits that use blood to test for HIV. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should die as a consequence of HIV infection as it is now completely treatable, with just one tablet a day. Fortunately, “test and treat” programmes are now implemented globally, but testing is vital and BioSure are proving to be a part of the solution to eradicate this virus for good.
In the UK, we helped change the law on self-testing, we delivered the first kit and now we’re working closely with the UN on its 90/90/90 goals for 2020. This stands for: 90% of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status on treatment; and 90% of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads. This will stop onward transmission and ultimately end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
- How would you describe the culture at your organisation and how do you maintain it?
“I remember the story about JFK talking to someone sweeping the floors at NASA – the President asked, ‘And what do you do?’ The man replied, ‘I’m helping send the first man to the moon.”
That story sums up what BioSure is about. There’s a huge amount of passion in this building – passion for the goal we’re trying to achieve, and that breeds a culture where people help each other, go out of their way to do their best and have no time for outdated concepts like workplace hierarchy.
We’re a small company that punches way above its weight, so everyone gets a lot of input into the direction of the business. I’m proud many members of the team have been here since we started in 2014. “We’ve never had someone who hasn’t worked their socks off and been able to fit in.”
- Does your organisation do any work in your local community?
We’ve recently launched in South Africa and immediately got stuck into local community issues. We’re working with MSM (men who have sex with men) organisations and are in the process of setting up official partnerships with Stellenbosch University and the University of KwaZulu Natal.
- In what ways does your organisation collaborate with others and why?
We have to collaborate because we operate in the same space as multi-billion dollar companies. We love working with others, and it’s very much part of my belief that you can create real, long-lasting partnerships – free of ulterior or selfish motives.
In the UK, we have worked extensively with the Terrence Higgins Trust, which works to end HIV transmission in this country. “Together we managed to help 5500 people determine their status in two weeks.”
- What is the main thing that attracts and retains talent in your organisation?
We are privileged to work in such an exciting space. We have a big social impact which is tangible and I think people find that attractive. How many companies get emails from the people they’re working with saying, ‘thank you’, on a daily basis?
At the end of 2016 the World Health Organisation recommended integrating self-testing into national HIV programmes. That move meant more people learned about us and what we do, which definitely attracted a huge amount of interest and applications to the organisation.
“Talented people stay at BioSure because we are in a stage of rapid growth and the future is bright for the organisation – and for the people we’re dedicated to helping.”
- What has been the biggest challenge to your growth and how have you tackled it?
We have two issues, which I think many businesses face. The first is to keep the funding coming in – it’s a constant battle and something we’re always working on.
The second revolves around our commitment to the quality of our product. When we started this journey, we decided to set the bar as high as possible and make the best possible product. On one hand, this has acted as a barrier to entry for other companies and granted us integrity and trust from our customers. But, on the other, meeting such strict regulations can take up a lot of time and drain your resources. Ultimately it has given us the best HIV self-test on the market and consequently significant equity in the BioSURE brand.
- What has been the best decision your organisation has ever made?
“The best decision we ever made was to keep developing the product and building on our success. We have complete belief in what we’re doing and how we do it.” There are times when we could have given up, but that belief kept us going.
- What would you say represents the biggest opportunity for your organisation in the next five years?
The biggest opportunity for our organisation is to expand on our expertise and provide self-test kits for diseases such as Hepatitis B and C and Tuberculosis. If we get it right – and I’m confident we will – this would transform the lives of millions.
- What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
When a door closes, find a window to go through.
- What other organisation do you admire the most and why?
I admire Apple for the sheer confidence they have in what they do. Everyone trusts what they bring to the market. It’s inspiring for us, as we want people to have that same confidence in us and our brand.
- What does a Vibrant Economy mean to you?
A vibrant economy is one that moves forward with confidence. Whatever you’ve got, you make it work and you do it with confidence.