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DoubleTwist Unveils First Partners, Customers for Bioinformatics Portal

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AKLAND, Calif.--With a flurry of press releases timed to catch the attention of investors at the annual Chase Hambrecht & Quist Life Sciences Conference in San Francisco last week, DoubleTwist unveiled its genetic research web portal and announced several partnerships and its first paying customer.

Bioinformatics tools maker Pangea Systems, which changed its name last month to DoubleTwist, first revealed its plans to launch an internet portal in September and has been testing the site at Stanford University since then. DoubleTwist.com is intended to provide the biological research community with easy access to bioinformatics tools--those developed by Pangea as well as by partners such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Biowidgets program--and genomic data, including a completely annotated human genome sequence that DoubleTwist scientists are producing from public data. Biotechnology company profiles, business news, stock information, help-wanted ads, research supplies, and educational information will also eventually be available at the site, according to DoubleTwist chief operating officer Rob Williamson.

For instance, through a partnership with the electronic scientific product supplier, SciQuest.com, DoubleTwist will offer users a channel for procuring research products. Another arrangement with Oncology.com will extend DoubleTwist’s reach into the cancer research community and give its visitors access to cancer research news and information. DoubleTwist has also arranged with Bioinformatics Publishing to post content from past issues of BioInform on the site. Partners providing scientific data include AlphaGene, EraGen, Highwire Press, Invitrogen, and Myriad Genetics.

Williamson told BioInform that the site that was turned on last week represented "only a fraction of what we’re going to be doing" and that additional features will be unfurled in coming months. Tularik and Chiron, which already signed up for a one-year subscription, will be the first corporate beta-test sites. During this test phase, DoubleTwist said it will continue to validate its research agents and add components to the portal.

DoubleTwist’s creators are targeting customers from smaller biotechnology companies and academic laboratories as well as those at large pharmaceutical companies. "I want to serve every scientist," said Williamson. "The way they access DoubleTwist.com may be different depending where they are; the big pharmas might want it on a dedicated, hosted basis, and they can afford the hardware to make that happen. But smaller biotechs and academics can’t, so we’ll reach those people with the application service provider model." Although Williamson declined to reveal the price of DoubleTwist subscriptions, he noted that access to "a huge chunk of the site is for free" and that academics and groups will receive discounted rates.

The site will run on multiple Sun Enterprise servers and more than three terabytes of StorEdge arrays organized into two clusters using Sun Cluster software--one cluster to handle backend processing and data warehouse functions, and another to run search engines, e-commerce interactions, and databases. DoubleTwist also announced that it had purchased several of Paracel’s GeneMatcher systems to enable users to conduct Smith-Waterman and frame search algorithms as well as position-dependent comparisons and profile searches.

"The site we’re putting up is massive in terms of hardware, and we’re working with hardware companies that are telling us we’re doing stuff that no one else is even coming close to," Williamson claimed.

--Adrienne Burke

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