According to Steven Gold, founder and CEO of startup GraphLogic, software development is currently limited by "the fundamental divide between the program and the data"- a split that often results in applications being out of sync with the data repositories on which they operate.
In an attempt to "synthesize the data and the process," Gold and his team have developed a general-purpose computing architecture dubbed the Object Process Graph — an object-oriented database that stores the computational logic, display properties, and data required to run an application as nodes and edges in a graph.
Gold claims that the approach eliminates "multiple steps" in the development process, speeds requirements-gathering, enables the rapid creation of new applications, and allows users to modify or update programs even as they are running. "The whole system is oriented to change," he said.
"In classic computer architectures, you have to create a model and then generate the code, but we've eliminated that disconnect — now you can define the model and it just runs," he said.
While the approach could be used in many industries, Gold said that GraphLogic has identified bioinformatics as its first target market. One reason is the management team's extensive background in the field: Gold served as director of bioinformatics at CuraGen, where he developed the company's LIMS; Matthew Roth, VP of business development and life science applications, was previously VP of genomics at Agilix; and all three of the company's product development managers have a background in bioinformatics, with two of them hailing from CuraGen.
The life science market is "particularly well-suited to the architecture," he said, "especially in research environments that need to adapt quickly to change."
GraphLogic is pursuing a services-based model for delivering the Object Process Graph technology. Gold said that the company offers advantages over other bioinformatics consulting firms who develop customized systems because of the speed at which it can develop new applications. In the case of its first customer, the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute [BioInform 03-14-05], Gold said that GraphoLogic took only three months to write a comprehensive web-based data-management system that supports sequencing, proteomics, and other lab processes, along with accounting, inventory control, security, and other features that VBI's core lab required.
Gold claimed that in terms of technology, "I don't think anyone else is offering anything remotely close," but that doesn't mean that GraphLogic doesn't face stiff competition. In fact, the flexibility of its platform puts the company up against nearly every subsector in the bioinformatics market — not only other consulting and services shops, but desktop software providers, LIMS vendors, data pipelining software companies, in-house development within biotech and pharma firms, and even offshore outsourcing firms, like India's TCS and Persistent Systems, which are building up their life science development capabilities.
But Gold claims that GraphLogic can compete against all these rivals on several levels — once customers are willing to give the approach a try. "There's a huge market for customized software in the life sciences," he said, noting that although all these players are "competing for the same clients …we can compete not only on price, but we can also beat [competitors'] speed to delivery, and we offer a more reliable and flexible solution."
GraphLogic also offers a range of "turnkey" products called BioGraphWeaver built using the Object Process Graph technology to address specific application areas like sequence analysis, proteomics, and microarray data management. The firm has other customers for its products and services besides VBI, Gold said, but he declined to disclose who they are.
One challenge that GraphLogic is likely to face is resistance to adapting a new technology, and Gold acknowledged that the initial responses to the Object Process Graph method have been mixed. "Some don't believe that software can be done any other way than how it's been done for the last 50 years," he said, "and others are quite interested and fascinated." So far, he added, once people get a look at how it works, "It's a relatively easy sell."
GraphLogic was founded in 2003 with private financing. The company currently employs 15 people, and Gold said he expects the firm to double in size this year.
— Bernadette Toner ([email protected])