Desktop Genetics, a UK-based bioinformatics company, said this week that it will use £375,000 ($582,000) in funding to further develop and commercialize AutoClone, its flagship software product for designing, constructing, managing, and exchanging DNA constructs.
The funds come from an equity investment of £275,000 from Boundary Capital, Execute Technologies, and four angel investors. The firm also received an additional £100,000 from a technology strategy board grant.
DeskGen said it will use the money to expand AutoClone's capabilities through internal research and development programs, and in conjunction with unnamed industrial partners; as well as to develop an off-the-shelf version of the product that will launch after a beta trial to be held in the fourth quarter of this year.
Riley Doyle, DeskGen's CEO and co-founder, told BioInform that when it is launched, the product will include tools to do things like automatically generate cloning protocols and genome editing vectors as well as design RNAi plasmids for functional genomics projects.
AutoClone is an automated software platform and database that works by sourcing the sequences needed to build any new DNA constructs specified by users. It is designed for companies working on gene expression, antibody engineering, cell line development, functional genomics, gene editing, and protein production. According to DeskGen, AutoClone's benefits include enhanced research productivity because it reduces the time and cost of the DNA synthesis process. Also, its inventory, management, and sharing functions enable fast and accurate assembling of sequences into molecular biology tools, DeskGen claims.
Doyle said the firm is currently mulling commercialization options for the product, for example offering it as a web-based tool and charging a subscription fee or alternatively providing it as an appliance that customers can install and use internally.
Separately, the company also plans to offer a service that will provide customers with "flexible" workflows based on AutoClone's technology, Doyle said. It is currently testing this option as part of a private beta with a number of unnamed companies, he said. Pricing for the service is negotiable and will be determined on a per-project basis.
DeskGen's funds will also support efforts to set up business development, sales, and marketing capaabilities to serve customers in the European and American markets. When AutoClone goes to market, it will compete with similar cloning offerings such as Vector NTI from Life Technologies (BI 2/20/2009), Genome Compiler's software, Gene Designer from DNA 2.0, and the j5 software package from newly minted TeselaGen Biotechnology (BI 10/26/2012).
Doyle admits that many firms in the space are tackling the problem; however, they come at it from "different angles," he said. "A lot of companies …are working on programs that help you design what that DNA sequence should be in the first instance." DeskGen on the other hand tries to answer the question, "How do I make this thing that I want as efficiently and easily … and as quickly as possible?" he explained. "We tell people how to build the DNA."
DeskGen also announced this week that it has hired Darrin Disley, one of its angel investors, to serve as its non-executive chairman. Disley is the CEO and president of Horizon Discovery, a UK-based biotechnology company that supplies genetically defined cell lines, reporter gene assay kits, genomic reference standards, and contract research services. He is responsible for Horizon's corporate development, business strategy, and investor relations.