Listen closely enough to Neil Fanger, and you’ll find someone who really has taken the lessons of the bioinformatics bubble to heart. One of four cofounders of modeling informatics startup Teranode, Fanger eschews hyped-up catchphrases in favor of descriptions like “reasonable growth rate.”
That’s not to say Fanger lacks optimism. As Teranode prepared to launch version 2.5 of its Teranode Design Suite, he spoke with Genome Technology about the state of this almost-three-year-old company. Now at a staff of 25, Teranode began with Fanger, Joseph Duncan, Larry Arnstein, and Zang Lee — professionals who met through the University of Washington’s Cell Systems Initiative, most of whom had previous careers in software or related fields. Its technology is based on biological modeling and simulation software licensed from the university. The team has managed to complete a series A funding round, and are about to embark on their series B. Teranode now boasts 12 customers and recently signed an agreement with NIH to provide its software for the new chemical genomics initiative, Fanger says. “We’re pretty much growing as we see revenues ramping,” he adds.
Teranode’s suite is aimed at lab scientists looking to merge wet lab and in silico data, and can accommodate data from the public domain as well. The software designers looked at basic problems scientists confront: “manual spreadsheet development,” Fanger says, “accessibility of biological databases, … sharing and merging models.” Groups at MIT and Amgen are using biological and protein modeling software, he says, while pharmas are using the company’s chemical synthesis programs. Teranode is in the process of developing high-throughput screening and sample management solutions as well. Ultimately, Fanger says, the goal is to get institutes like these to run Teranode software essentially from start to finish, linking everything “into one major computing infrastructure.”
For those seeking algorithms Teranode hasn’t designed yet, the company offers a developer’s tool kit that customers can use to build software to suit their own needs, relying on a Teranode backbone.
In three years’ time, Fanger says he would like to see Teranode have 150 to 200 customers, and have successfully decreased R&D costs and time to market for new applications. While that’s quite a goal, he says market indicators suggest he’s not crazy: “We’re at the beginning of an emerging market. … We’re really starting to see companies put together budgets to make this happen.”
— Meredith Salisbury