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Era7 to Use Rafer's $400K Investment to Staff US Operations, Build New Sample Prep Lab


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) –Spanish company Era7 Bioinformatics, will use a recent $400,000 investment from laboratory reagents and instruments firm Commercial Rafer to hire new staff mainly for its US office in Boston and to launch a new lab that will offer customized sample preparation to customers of its bioinformatics analysis services.

Specifically, Era7 CEO Eduardo Pareja told BioInform that the company intends to hire technical personnel with marketing experience — at least two in the next month and another two later on — to promote its services and software at conferences and meetings as well as to contact and showcase its abilities to potential customers. Era7 will also set up a lab in Granada, Spain through which it will offer its European clients access to specialized sample preparation determined by the nature of their sequencing projects.

Currently, Era7's sequencing partners prepare sent samples internally using whatever standard protocols they have in place regardless of whether or not these best fit the needs and requirements of the projects, Pareja said. Era7's lab will offer customers, when appropriate, the option of performing tailored sample prep steps that could improve the quality of the final sequencing output. The objective of the lab, which is expected to open in the next two to three months he said, is " to have the control and the capability [to] improve even more the quality of our services."

The added sample prep service will be available at no extra cost to customers and fits in with Era7's mission to "deliver a whole business solution to customers" that adequately addresses all their project needs, Pareja said. The company has built its business on providing services — priced flexibly on a per-project basis — to customers that help them set up, run, and complete next-generation sequencing projects. Its existing services menu covers sequencing project design including guidance on setting project goals and selecting appropriate sequencing technologies and providers, as well as cloud-based data analysis, storage, and result reporting services using the company's internally developed open source software.

Era7 software products include Bio4j, a database of information from resources such as UniProt and UniRef that provides a framework for protein-related information querying and management. This particular tool will soon be renamed BioGraphika to better reflects changes that the company has made to the software — for example, it's now developed in Scala instead of Java and users have multiple graph databases to choose from for use in the system's backend instead of just Neo4j.

In addition, Era7 offers cloud-based annotation services for bacterial genomes, dubbed BG7; and one for metagenomics, called MG7. The company also has a comparative genomics service, called CG7, that offers clients a pipeline for comparing multiple bacterial genomes, mapping them to the reference, and detecting changes such as SNPs, insertions, and deletions, as well as the functional effects of these variants. Also available is a service called AG7, which provides a pipeline for using the long Pacific Biosciences sequencing reads to join Illumina contigs together in order to obtain better genome assemblies.

In addition to investing in Era7, Commercial Rafer has signed a distribution agreement that allows it to distribute the company's services to clients in Spain and Portugal. It's a deal that benefits Rafer, according to Jesus Ramos, the company's manager. "Our entry into Era7's capital means a big step in our strategic plan to increase Rafer's presence in the NGS market," he said in a statement

The agreement should help Era7 "considerably increase its customer portfolio" in both Spain and Portugal, Pareja noted. Rafer has a large network of marketing people in both countries that could help the company expand its reach in those markets. At present, the bulk of its business comes from clients in the US, he told BioInform. That's in spite of the fact that multiple bioinformatics companies already peddle their products to some of the same customers in the North American market who work in academia, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

However, not many firms specialize in bacterial genomics, Pareja pointed out. In addition, Era7 works with customers from NGS project inception through to conclusion, right down to helping them submit their data to the appropriate public repository and working with them to write and publish their findings, further distinguishing it from firms that focus just on data analysis services or on selling software licenses, he said. Finally, he added, "we use open source solutions so if a customer wants to scale their activities, they can [do so] independent of us as providers."

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