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Genohub Aims to Pair Researchers with Appropriate Sequencing Service Providers

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Genohub, an Austin, Texas-based startup, has launched its online matchmaking site between researchers' sequencing projects and the appropriate platform and provider.

The company first presented a beta version of its offerings at the annual meeting of the Association of Biomolecular Resources Facilities in Palm Springs, Calif., in March (IS 3/19/2013).

Since then, Genohub has been signing up providers to list their services, soliciting feedback from both providers and potential customers, and has built a database of all the sequencing instruments and their specifications, CEO Pouya Razavi told In Sequence.

Razavi said that this database of sequencing instruments would be particularly useful for researchers without a lot of experience with next-generation sequencing. "There are all these various sequencing instruments with different capabilities and capacities," he said. "Different read lengths, different read types, different technologies."

Increasingly, the researchers that are turning to next-gen sequencing are not familiar with the different nuances of the machines and chemistries, but are turning to the technology because it provides a lot of data and insight, said Razavi.

Genohub aims to help these researchers choose the appropriate platform and provider. The company built software that enables researchers to input details about their project, including the number of genomes, size of the genome, and how much coverage is required, and the software will take that into consideration and search the available providers to generate a list of providers with the technology to be used, estimated turnaround time, and price.

Another feature of the site, said Razavi, is what he calls "one-time offers." The concept is designed so that providers looking to fill a flow cell can offer a one-time discount for researchers that need just a few lanes.

"Regardless of whether you have one lane or eight lanes, you have to spend the same amount of money on the sequencing run," Razavi said. "And that's a big problem for a lot of service providers" that are trying to balance the economic need to fill up a flow cell with customers' desires for faster turnaround times.

Razavi said that Genohub's software is designed to take this into account in a transparent way. Once the lane or lanes have been filled, the offer is removed. If more than one researcher tries to order the offer, the software will be able to distinguish which order came first. And, the offers are all managed automatically, so providers do not have to manually monitor them.

Currently, Razavi said that around 25 providers have signed up with Genohub, and that new providers are being added every day. He thinks that researchers new to sequencing or who do not have easy access to sequencing will be the most likely customers. For instance, if a university's core facility is already at capacity and the turnaround time for a specific project would be too long, that person could turn to Genohub to find a more appropriate provider, he said.

Initially, he said the company will target academic researchers, small biotech companies, agricultural companies, and other private companies where sequencing is not essential enough for them to have their own instruments but that use sequencing on certain projects. Pharmaceutical companies may also be interested in the service, Razavi said, although he said he has not been targeting those companies initially.

Genohub is not the only company to see a market for pairing researchers with scientific services. BlueSeq also matches research projects with available sequencing service providers. And the ABRF has launched its Core Marketplace, which provides a free listing of core labs that researchers can search by parameters such as service, institution, and location. Similarly, Science Exchange, while not focused exclusively on sequencing, acts as a hub to pair researchers with various scientific services.

Razavi said that Genohub will seek to distinguish itself from these other companies by focusing solely on next-gen sequencing. Additionally, he said ABRF's Core Marketplace is simply a listing of providers and contact information and does not take into consideration a researcher's specific project. Compared to BlueSeq, he said that Genohub's model is more structured and automated. For instance, researchers using BlueSeq are provided space to describe their project, but it is very open-ended and then researchers and the providers will bid back and forth. Meantime, Genohub's software asks specific questions about the researcher's project in order to generate accurate price estimates.

"Everything is very structured," he said, and includes "all the parameters we need to automatically generate the quotes that providers would have to normally do manually. It saves time for both the provider and the researcher," he said.

The site is free for researchers to use and for providers to list, and Genohub generates its revenue by charging a fee to the provider for any accepted projects.

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