NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Auckland, New Zealand-based Biomatters is preparing to launch its first genomic data analysis applications that will run on cloud infrastructure offered by vendors such as Google and Amazon.
Michel Seidelin, Biomatters chief commercial officer, told GenomeWeb this week that the company's first applications for the cloud will be for analyzing metagenomics and oncology data that could be useful in various contexts. Seidelin joined the privately-held company last fall in the newly created CCO role from CLC Bio — now owned by Qiagen — where he worked most recently as vice president of global sales and support. He said that Biomatters is currently developing both of its cloud products in collaboration with a number of unnamed partners and expects to have at least one of the two services launched by 2016, but hasn't decided which product will be made available first.
Over the next several months, the company and its partners will continue to test and hone both products to ensure they fit clients' requirements and needs, Seidelin said. They'll also settle on specific customer segments within the microbial domain to peddle their product to, he said. Currently the company is mulling several possible target communities including groups that study skin microbiomes, firms that analyze biomes in the context of food production or biofuel production, and a number of others, he said.
Meanwhile, its planned oncology offering will provide tools to make sense of genomics data from various types of solid and blood-based cancers. Biomatters will also use the intervening months to establish a suitable commercialization model and appropriate price points for access to the planned services, Seidelin said.
Cloud computing is new arena for privately-held Biomatters. The company, which has existed for over a decade, has historically developed and sold a desktop solution for analyzing next-generation sequencing data. Called Geneious, it offers tools for sequence assembly and alignment, data visualization, and SNP detection and variant calling. Customers have access to free plugins written by developers and members of the research community and they can add their own algorithms and programs to the software and share them with others in the Geneious ecosystem. Also included are algorithms for primer design and for building and editing phylogenetic trees. The product is used in academic institutions and centers such as the Broad Institute, CalTech, and Victoria University of Wellington as well as by companies such as Hologic and LanzaTech. The product can support infectious diseases studies, population genetics and evolutionary biology studies, ag-bio, and more.
Biomatters' interest in cloud computing began about three years ago, Seidelin told GenomeWeb, and was the direct result of seeing customers' growing interest in and use of cloud infrastructure to handle their analysis needs. Anticipating increased use of cloud technologies and seeking to tap into what was shaping up to be a potentially lucrative market, CEO Brett Amundsen and COO Andrew Steel set up an internal team to look into the emerging technology and explore new business opportunities for Biomatters, he said.
The first step for the company was to familiarize itself with cloud compute and storage; and requirements for data management, security, and integration with external databases as well as appropriate web interfaces, Seidelin said. The company was also one of the first commercial partners to participate in Illumina's BaseSpace developer program in 2012, taking the opportunity to get some practice developing tools for the cloud, he said. The company has developed and launched two applications for BaseSpace dubbed Genome Profiler and Melanoma Profiler. Biomatters has also developed a tool for the Geneious software to identify bacteria using information from the ribosomal database project, Seidelin said.
Now, three years later, the company feels ready to step into the cloud arena and believes that the products it has developed will provide value to customers, Seidelin said. However, adding cloud-enabled tools to its portfolio does not spell the end of its desktop solution, which is still being used by many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who prefer to keep their analysis local and safely tucked away behind protective firewalls. In fact, last year, Biomatters saw a nearly 50 percent increase in its software sales.
Those numbers, according to Seidelin, speak to the strength of Biomatters' current business model and the value of the Geneious product to the market. Even though there is a growing push to move computation to the cloud, there is still room for Geneious, he said, adding that the company will continue to develop and support the software moving forward.