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Knome Raises $13M to Support Clinical Lab Platform, Grow Genome Interpretation Service Business


Armed with the proceeds of a recent $13 million fundraising round led by unnamed investors, Knome is planning to grow its informatics consulting business and support the ongoing development and commercialization of the KnoSys 100, a product for clinical laboratories that bundles the company's genomic interpretation software with compute hardware.

Jorge Conde, one of the co-founders of Cambridge, Mass.-based Knome, told BioInform that the company will increase the size of its consulting arm and invest in new informatics resources, such as analysis pipelines and data repositories. This will help the company provide more comprehensive services to its clients who come primarily from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology markets, marking a shift from the early days of its business when customers were largely from academia, he said.

The company's services portfolio includes KnomeDiscovery, which provides end-to-end genome and exome analysis and interpretation including alignment, variant calling, and interpretation; and KnomeBase, which helps clients prioritize and validate candidate variants, genes, and pathways. Biopharma clients use the KnomeDiscovery service in particular, Conde said, to screen potential clinical trial participants as well as to explore the genetic basis of disease as part of drug development efforts

In terms of the KnoSys 100, Conde said that the funds would support planned product releases and the development and addition of new features based on feedback from users of the platform. Although the system is targeted to clinical laboratories, it has "a strong place" in the research labs as well, he said. In fact, early placements of the system have been in a research lab and in a second lab running both research and clinical projects, but the company is not disclosing who these customers are.

Knome first unveiled the KnoSys 100 in 2012, marketing it as an alternative to cloud-based solutions for customers who, for privacy and regulatory reasons, prefer to keep their data behind their firewalls or who don't want to deal with long data transfer times. It is a software appliance that couples a grid computing platform with KnoSoft, a software solution that Knome developed to help clinical labs filter, interpret, and classify variants and generate reports.

Although it announced the product nearly two years ago, Knome did not start shipping orders for the system until last year. Ben Salisbury, Knome's vice president of clinical genomics, explained that the delays were due to internal decisions to add more capabilities to the platform that would make it more efficient and user-friendly. For example, he said, a lot of effort went into improving the upstream processing capabilities of the system so that "[variant] aligning and calling and the management of all of those files and data [occurs] in a really easy and robust fashion."

Knome has also changed the price of the KnoSys 100 — initially, it announced that the system would have a starting price of around $125,000. The company has not disclosed the new pricing scheme as those details are still being finalized, Conde told BioInform.