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Form Bio Harnesses Google Cloud for Multiomic Analysis Platform


NEW YORK – Computational biology company Form Bio has employed Google Cloud's Multiomics Suite to build an AI-based omic analysis platform for researchers.

The Dallas-based company, a spinoff of Colossal Biosciences, is offering the recently launched analysis tool on Google Cloud Marketplace to individual researchers for free while charging tiered pricing for institutional and enterprise users.

"What we're trying to do is make this [platform] accessible for everybody for their needs," said Form Bio Cofounder and CEO Kent Wakeford. "With our relationship with Google, we have been able to make the core of our platform available to anyone on a self-serve basis."

Underpinning the analysis platform is the AI-powered Google Cloud Multiomics Suite, he said, which was introduced at the Bio-IT World Conference last year and is made available to the company through a partnership with Google.

Developed to streamline and enhance data analysis and interpretation for personalized medicine, the Multiomics Suite includes tools such as DeepVariant, a deep learning-based variant caller; DeepSomatic, which enables somatic variant calling from tumor-normal sequencing data; DeepTrio, developed for variant calling from family trio or duo samples; and DeepVariant for RNA-seq, which is optimized for variant calling from RNA sequencing data.

While these AI-based models are already available and executable via code repository and other computational avenues, Form Bio said it is integrating them into an "easy-to-use bioinformatics platform" that allows researchers to run these pipelines "with just a few clicks."

In addition, Form Bio's platform allows users to easily upload their own pipelines, and it is designed to streamline project management, collaboration, and data visualization, Wakeford noted.

For individual researchers, Wakeford said the company is offering the platform for free and is asking for "nothing in return." Users can sign up for the product on Google Cloud, which provides 300 hours of free credits to new accounts.

For enterprise clients, Form Bio offers a team plan that is priced at $1,000 per month and includes five users or a pro plan at $8,000 per month that accommodates 15 users.

So far, customers for the company's platform are primarily based in the US and include a mix of academic and industry users, Wakeford noted, though he declined to disclose the number of active accounts.

Wakeford also did not disclose financial details of the company's partnership with Google other than noting that the companies' marketing and sales teams collaborate.

"I found [the platform] very enabling," said Asaf Ashkenazy-Titelman, a postdoctoral researcher in George Church's lab at Harvard University. "There is a lot of flexibility in the workflow."

Working on a research project for Colossal, which spun off Form Bio, Ashkenazy-Titelman said he has been using the platform to help analyze RNA-seq data from elephant cells.

"It was easier [to use] because it's on the cloud, so it does not take up space on your computer," he said, adding that the pre-built pipelines on Form Bio's platform also help him save time and effort for data analysis so he can focus more on the wet lab experiments.

Compared to the open-source pipeline he was previously using, results from the Form Bio platform were "very similar," he said.

"That's how I know I trust it," Ashkenazy-Titelman noted. "If I can find something that is free, quick, and attends to my needs, that's all I need."

Form Bio "places the open-source software capabilities of our team in their platform," Andrew Carroll, product lead of genomics at Google AI, wrote in an email. "This gives the user easy user interfaces that enable them to run that software and other adjacent applications, which do useful things like annotation and visualization."

Carroll's team previously developed tools such as DeepVariant and DeepSomatic, which are part of the Multiomics Suite's offerings. However, he explained that his team, which belongs to Google Research, builds "open-source applications that broadly address the needs of the genomics scientific community."

"We have a research and science mandate," he added. "We don't have a commercial mandate, and the software of our team is not intended to generate revenue." 

As such, Carroll said, his team is not responsible for the development of Multiomics Suite, which is a Google Cloud product, and there "isn't a close link" between his team and the Google Cloud team.

Form Bio is not the only partner for Google Cloud's Multiomics Suite. Nvidia, for example, which also has partnerships with Form Bio and Colossal, offers it through its Parabricks genomic analysis software.

Additionally, Google lists Epam Systems, Max Kelsen (now part of Bain), Omnigen, and Quantiphi as delivery partners for the Multiomics Suite, as well as for its drug discovery companion product, called Target and Lead Identification Suite.

Amazon Web Services has launched its own omics analysis platform, called Amazon Omics service, which contains a menu of pre-built workflows for variant querying and analysis.

Form Bio spun off from Colossal Biosciences, which aims to bring back extinct species, in 2022. At launch, it raised $30 million in Series A financing and brought about 30 employees from Colossal.

The company has since grown to about 50 employees, Wakeford said, and plans to raise another funding round in the coming months.

In addition to the multiomic analysis platform, Form Bio has pipelines for cell and gene therapy as well as "a broad solution suite" for gene editing, he added.