Eagle Genomics, a UK-based bioinformatics software and services provider, said this week that it plans to use a recent influx of funds to complete development on ElasticAp, a cloud-based analysis product that the company hopes to launch early next year.
Eagle just completed the first half of a two-part fundraiser in which it raised £590,000 ($917,000) of a planned £1million ($1.6 million) investment total. This round was led by Midven's Rainbow Seed Fund together with angel investments from Abcam CEO Jonathan Milner, Cambridge Angels, London Business Angels, Cambridge Capital Group, and others. A second closing is planned within three months with the aim of raising the balance.
ElasticAp, the first product from a company that has traditionally sold software consulting services, will provide infrastructure for managing and integrating genomic and other kinds of scientific research data. It will provide a consistent way of storing data and metadata as well as access to third-party analysis applications such as Galaxy and the Ensembl genome browser, Richard Holland, Eagle's chief business office, told BioInform.
Since the platform lets users combine both data and metadata — things like information about data quality and the method used to generate it — users have a more complete dataset to work with, he said. This makes it easier to, for example, identify gaps and spot patterns in data even if it was collected from multiple sources, in different formats, and annotated in different ways, he said. Also, since the data is co-located with analysis tools, users don't have to worry about moving large files from one system to the next, he said.
ElasticAp is also flexible. Users have command line access giving them the freedom to put together and run bespoke workflows. Furthermore, customers who have concerns about data security in the cloud can opt to install and run the platform on their own internal data centers.
Holland said that Eagle will use the funds from this round to make some technical improvements to ElasticAp based on feedback it got from a beta test conducted earlier this year with an undisclosed customer. The firm will also focus on improving the general usability of the software — improving the user interface and software responsiveness, for instance — and running additional tests to ensure that ElasticAp complies with necessary regulatory requirements, he said. In line with these efforts, Eagle is hiring both permanent and contract staff that will help with the development and also support the software once it's released, he said.
Eagle is pursuing a phased approach to marketing ElasticAp, according to Holland. Initially, it will market the product to existing customers, and then it will target similar firms not in its current client roster. Finally, it will offer ElasticAp more broadly to any interested researchers in the community. Pricing for access to the platform is still being sorted out but it's likely that first customers will be charged a flat-rate annual license fee for access to a set amount of compute power and storage, Holland said. Later, the company will implement a pay-per-use model where customers could possibly be charged per application, day, or gigabyte.
ElasticAp is Eagle's first product for the data analysis market. Its development, Holland said, grew out of Eagle's involvement in the Pistoia Alliance — a public/private consortium that aims to provide pharma companies with access to precompetitive databases and software. Eagle participated in several proof-of-concept projects aimed at providing infrastructure for handling genomic sequence (BI 4/22/2011, 2/10/2012, and 5/4/2012).
Following its participation in the project, Eagle saw a potential market opportunity for the kinds of capabilities it had developed. Metadata integration, for instance, is "a very hot topic right now, something that a lot of people are trying to do and for which there are very few solutions," Holland said. This capability also sets ElasticAp apart from similar offerings from companies such as DNAnexus and Seven Bridges, both of whom offer cloud-based analysis and storage capabilities, he said.
There's also a demand for more flexible solutions. "Many of the competing systems have fixed programs, fixed workflows that [users] must follow," he said. ElasticAp "has some of those … but there's much greater freedom to design your own analyses and carry out your own tasks … than it is with some of the other platforms." Also, having the option to run the software locally should make it more widely attractive, he said.
Finally, from a business standpoint, it's an opportunity to develop some intellectual property, he noted, which should help increase Eagle's value and standing in the market place.
Besides software development, Eagle also intends to use some of the newly invested funds to expand its consulting business in the consumer goods, food safety, and animal health markets. This includes hiring at least one more sales person so that Eagle can increase the number of customer contracts it can take in, Holland said. Currently, the firm has more than 30 customers worldwide working in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, crop science, bio-fuels, personal hygiene, and animal health sectors. About 60 percent of its business comes from big pharma, about 30 percent from consumer goods, and about 10 percent from plant-based research, Holland said.
"We believe there is lots of opportunity out there," he said. "We have a well-established existing customer base in several of these industries … and so we can build on it from there."