Maverix Biomics will use a $6 million investment from its first significant venture funding round to expand its sales force and marketing activities, and to provide additional gene expression analysis tools to customers of its flagship cloud-based Maverix Analytic Platform.
Dave Mandelkern, Maverix co-founder and CEO, told BioInform that the company will add seven or eight new employees to its headcount this year who, in addition to boosting sales, will be responsible for providing services and support to its growing customer base. The company is also exploring new open-source methods for its platform that will provide algorithms for things like ChIP-sequencing methylation analysis and more, he said.
Maverix's Series A was led by Asset Management Ventures and two Silicon Valley information technology investors: Andreas Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Granite Systems, and Kealia, and current board chairman at Arista Networks; and Andrew Yang, co-founder of Apache Design — now a division of ANSYS. As part of their investment, Louis Lange, a general partner at Asset Management Ventures and Senior Advisor at Gilead Sciences, and Yang, who is ANSYS vice president and general manager of ANSYS, have joined Maverix's board.
San Mateo, Calif.-based Maverix launched the first version of its cloud platform in late 2012 adopting a pay-as-you-go pricing model that varies based on factors such as analysis type and dataset size. The platform has a number of open-source applications for next-generation sequence data management, exploration, and visualization, some of which were developed at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It offers pipelines for things like RNA-seq and ChIP-seq analysis, SNP detection, ribosome profiling, bisulfite sequencing, methylation analysis, and de novo small genome assembly, among others.
Last year, hoping to woo prospective cost-conscious customers, Maverix launched two budget-friendly options for using its product. The first of these were so-called “communities of discovery” that would provide access to datasets from particular organisms or around common research areas for free. The second was the Maverix Academic Grants for NGS Exploration Tools, or MAGNET, program, which offered the company's cloud-based analysis services to approved academic and not-for-profit life sciences researchers at a reduced cost.
And its efforts have paid off, according to Mandelkern. Maverix's software is being used by both commercial companies and academics for clinical research and diagnostics, biomarker discovery, and agricultural analysis. In one recent deal, Maverix's platform was selected to analyze data for the 99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative. It's a project spearheaded by researchers at the University of Missouri, Columbia to sequence the genomes of 99 cats in order to improve coverage and future assemblies of the cat genome, and to identify normal and abnormal variants as well as links to disease among other aims — this study will be discussed in detail during a workshop in this year's Plant and Animal Genome conference in San Diego.
Besides broadening use, "one of the things that’s very encouraging is we are actually able to generate revenue" from product sales, Mandelkern told BioInform. While some competitors have had to offer their tools for free to incentivize customers to use them, "we have people that have been able to value this appropriately and actually pay us for the use of the platform both on the academic side and on the commercial side," he said.
Maverix's business has also benefitted from its relationship with Qiagen both in terms of revenue and customers, according to Mandelkern. Last November, the two companies signed a co-marketing agreement that allowed them to couple the Maverix Analytic Platform with Qiagen's Ingenuity iReport solution thus providing an integrated solution for analyzing raw sequence through to variant interpretation.
Since it launched, the combined solution has been "well received" in the marketplace, helping to bridge a gap "in the workflow of [users] going from high-throughput sequencing into the Ingenuity platform," Mandelkern said. "We've already got several customers that we are working together with … and we are really looking forward to working closely with [Qiagen] and expanding that even more over the coming months."
Although Qiagen now owns software — from the CLC Bio acquisition — that provides many of the same analysis features that Maverix does, Mandelkern believes that both companies' products target different sorts of customer needs and, as such, can coexist. For clients who prefer proprietary algorithms or who want their software running on internal hardware, "CLC Bio is a great option," he said. Conversely, for users who want to make use of the sharing and collaboration capabilities that cloud infrastructure enables or who prefer to use more open source software in their projects, Maverix is the "more natural choice."