NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Sequencing services facilitator Genohub is aiming to address the growing need for next-generation sequencing data storage by offering customers cloud storage.
Masoud Toloue, a cofounder of the Austin, Texas-based company, said in an interview that Genohub has evolved from primarily a matchmaking company that paired researchers with sequencing providers, to more of a facilitator that aims to provide guaranteed turnaround times, quality assurance, and now cloud-based storage and data transfer.
When the firm launched in 2013, NGS was still a relatively nascent technology and many researchers lacked NGS capabilities. As prices have dropped and companies have launched a variety of sequencing platforms, access to the technology is no longer a problem for most.
As such, Toloue said that Genohub's services have evolved. The company still uses its proprietary algorithm to pair researchers with sequencing providers, but Genohub now caters to specific needs like fast turnaround times or more niche applications like single-cell sequencing. The company now has 1,500 active researchers across 27 countries who use its services on a recurring basis, Toloue said.
Over the last few years, the firm realized that a major problem for clients has been data storage and transfer.
"There's a lot more sequence data being generated now," Toloue said. "With today's sequencing instruments, a single run can generate 1 terabase of data." However, he said, researchers have primarily been storing, downloading, and transferring data using older file transfer protocols. Toloue said that sequencing service providers might give clients an FTP link to log into and download data, but data transfer is often so intensive and slow that computers crash.
Different providers might also have different policies regarding how long they will store clients' data, sometimes causing them to lose data that they did not save right away, Toloue said. "It was a mess," he said. "We wanted a system where the ground rules were all the same from project to project so clients wouldn't have to consider each individual provider's policies on data storage and transfer."
To try and solve these issues Genohub launched its Project Buckets solution, which uses Amazon's S3 cloud platform to store and transfer sequence data. The service provider will upload the sequence data to the Project Bucket and clients will be able to store and transfer unlimited amounts of data. Customers will get three months for free, after which Genohub will charge a fee. Toloue said the company is still working out its pricing plan for the service.
Although service providers or researchers could access cloud storage options on their own, Toloue said that it is not common for researchers to have experience managing large sets of data and so by and large were not using the cloud services.
An example of how Genohub is focusing more on being a facilitator is by helping researchers find core facilities, which often have a backlog of samples, that can turn around results in a specific time frame.
In addition, he said, Genohub has focused on signing up service providers who specialize in niche applications, including single-cell sequencing, genotyping by sequencing, ChIP-seq and other immunoprecipitation-based sequencing protocols. Many high-throughput facilities don't offer those services, Toloue said.
Genohub is not the only option for customers looking to match with sequencing or other scientific services. In 2013 the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities launched its Core Marketplace, a listing of core labs that researchers can search. Meanwhile AllSeq also offers an online exchange to match researchers with providers.
In the future, Genohub will continue to focus on these issues as well as other reliability issues. "We want to make shipping and tracking of samples more efficient and institute an online system for quality checking," he said. Genohub may also eventually expand to include similar matching for other genomics services aside from sequencing, but for now there is enough growth in the sequencing space for the company to focus on, Toloue said.