Back in 1999, John Wilbanks was a Boston interface designer who would help his girlfriend with her lab work at a biotech startup. Maybe it was a desire to impress his future wife or perhaps the startup fever in the salty air — whatever the reason, Wilbanks began coding bioinformatics software and looking for funding.
Sixteen months later, Wilbanks, founding CEO of Incellico, is taking his first commercial product out of beta. The company moved to Research Triangle Park after securing an initial $5 million venture round last August, growing from five people to 28 since. North Carolina VC firm A.M. Pappas participated in the financing, along with angel investors. Incellico advisor Michael Liebman, director of computational biology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, likes that the company is not a thesis spinout: “They recognize this is a business, not an academic endeavor,” he says.
Incellico’s first product is a Web-based tool for accessing and analyzing data from microarray experiments; it comes in two flavors, ASP and Enterprise. Called Arrayex 1.0, the application hints at the company’s core technology, data modeling tools that are “a twist on object databases,” Wilbanks says.
That core platform, called CELL (Coded Electronic Life Library), is something they’ll release gradually, for now focusing on niche products that take advantage of the technology’s ability to easily cross-reference data. “It’s really hard to build biotech software that plays broadly,” Wilbanks explains. “But writing applications to access critical data — that’s powerful.”
“Building on an object platform meant we could create proprietary logic to discover and record cross-references. The power of cross-referencing builds as users bring in and add new data types,” says Wilbanks. The CELL API and development tools will be distributed through an early access program.
For Incellico’s inaugural product, the Arrayex interface atop CELL sets out to ease annotation, translation, and comparative analysis, in addition to promoting collaboration. It matters not at all if data are public or private.
Next out the CELL chute later this year will be another interface, currently called “XREF” — cross referenced, queryable datasets to untangle the myriad naming conventions used by computational biologists around the world.
— Brad Stenger