NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Having recently completed a financing deal with the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research (FICPR), Rapid Genomics is aiming to expand beyond the agricultural genotyping services it currently offers to begin marketing kits that will enable clients to perform DNA analysis in-house using the company's technology.
At the same time, the firm is exploring the possibility of applying its technology to human research and is already working with a small number of collaborators on such projects, Co-founder and CEO Marcio Resende told GenomeWeb.
Rapid Genomics was spun out of the University of Florida in 2011 to commercialize for the agricultural, livestock, and forestry industries a genotyping technology dubbed Rapid Seq, which involves sequencing a genome that has been simplified using PCR.
In Rapid-Seq, PCR is performed on samples using primers that have been designed to amplify defined sets of regions equally distributed throughout a target genome. The primers contain a specific sequence that determines the number and distribution of annealing sites in the genome, which allows the number of loci being genotyped to be adjusted.
A second round of PCR is then performed on pooled samples derived from the first PCR reactions, "combining individuals that will be sequenced together to increase sample preparation throughput," according to the company. The samples can then be sequenced using standard next-generation sequencing instrumentation, and the resulting data is analyzed using custom algorithms to yield genotypic information. The Rapid-Seq technology is currently covered by a US patent, No. 8,921,076.
The company also markets a sequence capture service based on existing technology but has been modified to increase the throughput of library preparation and reduce associated costs, Resende said.
Thus far, Rapid Genomics has focused on providing these services to academic researchers and to commercial agriculture firms, he added. Through one such arrangement, Rapid Genomics worked with scientists in Brazil to study different species of warbling finches, obtaining microsatellite loci and complete mitochondrial DNA genomes. On the commercial side, the firm has worked with breeders developing improved sugar cane and wheat plants, among others.
Since its inception, Rapid Genomics has expanded the number of species for which it offers genotyping services to over 200 plants and animals, Resende said. Typically, a customer will provide samples that the company processes, sequences, and analyzes to yield sets of DNA markers. The company also offers follow-up services for clients — for example, help with generating genomic selection models, he added.
Having received an undisclosed amount of funding from FICPR, the 11-person company is now looking to also market kits that will enable customers with large-scale high-throughout laboratories that are interested in the technology to perform the work internally.
Rapid Genomics is planning for a late-2016 beta release of the first Rapid-Seq kits, Resende said.
Also in 2016, the firm hopes to begin broadly offering its services to customers conducting human research. Rapid Genomics has already began testing these waters through a collaboration with investigators looking to identify putative genomic regions associated with pulmonary fibrosis.
Despite Rapid Genomics' interest in applying its technology to humans, Resende stressed that any services and products would be for research use only for now. The company plans to approach the diagnostics market only in the long term, he noted.