Search-engine company NextBio this week said it has pocketed $7 million in a Series B round of private-equity financing to help it grow its data center, install more servers, and put more infrastructure in place.
“We want to build up the data center to be able to support hundreds of thousands of users over the next couple years,” CEO Saeid Akhtari told BioInform this week.
He said the company has “great traction with our customers and we need to build up the company, both on the technical side – for example, with the hiring of programmers … more invention(s) — and we need to add more features and functionality to the product in order to boost our growth.”
The company currently counts as customers more then 60 universities, medical centers, and biotech companies that each have multiple users.
According to Akhtari, NextBio’s search engine operates with user-generated content. “The query can be a gene name or a compound or a disease name, or it can be your entire data set,” he said.
“So if you’ve studied 1,000 genes and you want to learn about your own set of genes or RNAi, you can input that and use it as a query,” Akhtari said. “That can be saved in your own private section or published to the public library to be shared by the entire community, or [you one can] be selective as to who looks at that data. These are features we will be adding [with the funding],” Akhtari added.
Akhtari said those features will include, primarily, Web 2.0 for collaboration and data sharing, and be updated each month as “we come up with innovative ways to analyze data, and personalize study results.”
Personalization of data, according to Akhtari, means for example, that if a scientist is working with someone across the globe, the information can be accessed solely by that person.
“Say, if a guy in Singapore collaborating with me wants to look at the same thing I am, he can be very selective [with] the discovery he made in NextBio and when it’s published, he can move data into the library,” Akhtari said.
Akhtari said that at this point NextBio’s budget is set , that the funding puts them at the break-even point. “If we want to grow any faster, we’ll pursue additional funding,” he said.
“We want to build up the data center to be able to support hundreds of thousands of users over the next couple years.”
Part of that growth would be determined by how the bioinformatics market shifts, he said. While it’s not unique to NextBio, the company is seeing a movement towards biology and chemistry data being shared openly across the board — from commercial users to academia. About half of NextBio’s users are contributing data, too.
However, Akhtari said that one challenge will be to scale all of the underlying data behind the literature, something he claims is unique to NextBio.
Bruce Bauer, senior managing director of Newbury Ventures, said his shop is attracted to NextBio because its technology is being used everywhere from commercial entities to the private sector, internationally and domestically, “and being reported as companion data to publications.”
And while some data being culled on the market is only relevant to a certain subject matter, Newbury liked that NextBio could tap anything of possible interest to a researcher, Bauer said.
“I would tell you [that NextBio has] unusually strong customer traction at this stage. …Often companies find their customers a little more slowly than NextBio’s team has been able to offer. … [So] this product is resonating with their customers,” Bauer said.