In the last decade the amount of medical data we have access to has exploded. So much so that just interpreting, processing and gaining insights from this data has turned into a whole new area of study and investment - bioinformatics.
What physicians, experts and investors have realized is that bioinformatics is going to be an essential piece of the puzzle in our journey towards truly individual care and preventative, rather than reactive, medical care.
As such, businesses that are able to truly innovate in this area are enjoying huge successes as they break new ground in the understanding and interpretation of data. As a specialist recruiter in this space, I’m thrilled to have been given access to speak with five of the best and the brightest businesses in bioinformatics.
I wanted to shine a light on these businesses, find out what makes them unique and how they’re helping to change the face of life sciences, research and healthcare.
Benchling claims to be one of the first purpose-built unified platforms for modern biologics R&D, with scientists using Benchling's unified applications for research and discovery of ground-breaking treatments using CRISPR, CAR-T and immunotherapy.
I caught up with Sam Partovi, VP Sales for Benchling, who filled me in on their progress. To date, the company has over 170,000 users across academia and industry, including big pharma, biotech and academic labs, all utilizing the Benchling platform to increase productivity and efficiency in their large molecule research programs.
Sam told me that based on customer analysis, ~30+% of research time & resources are inefficiently deployed due to factors like lack of data standards, poor usability of legacy point solutions (or paper) and poor reproducibility of experimental results. A cloud-based unified platform, such as Benchling, allows scientists to work more efficiently in the lab and effectively accelerate the research & discovery lifecycle, allowing more informed, data-driven decisions to bring therapies to the clinic faster.
For the future of Benchling and the industry, Sam speculated that by improving data quality, availability and collaboration, Benchling's platform can power the acceleration of biologics innovation. This will allow companies to focus on scientific innovation, seamlessly collaborate with partners & CROs for services and enable greater access & visibility to experimental results to accelerate time-to-milestone. It’s a huge idea, making this a company to watch.
Speaking with DNAnexus’ GM Kirk Sudheimer gave me a fascinating insight into how they are planning to achieve their goal of advancing precision medicine initiatives. Working across pharma, clinical diagnostics and healthcare, DNAnexus enables the secure exploration and sharing of data at a scale never seen before in the bioinformatics space.
When it comes to global genomics - which is becoming increasingly prevalent - security and compliance are hugely important. The DNAnexus Platform is a global leader in both security and compliance, being the only industry platform that has achieved FedRAMP Moderate ATO status.
In terms of the company’s future, the key message remains ‘stay ahead of the marketplace’. To Kirk, this was both in terms of competitors and large pharma, who also have the need to manage large data at scale.
To stay ‘ahead’, a lot will rely on driving innovation and technology to support and continuously enhance its current market leading product, DNAnexus Apollo.
Data quality is everything in bioinformatics. Twist Bioscience writes DNA onto silicon, and they have developed novel ways to ensure the quality and standardization of the data they process.
Twist’s Director of Data Analytics Esteban Toro told me that this has helped Twist increase their efficiency in data analysis, whilst providing a flexible platform which allows for a throughput that Twist believes is unprecedented in the world of DNA synthesis.
The quality of this synthetic DNA is achievable due to the development of a highly automated, scalable and efficient manufacturing process.
In addition, Esteban was excited to tell me about Twist’s aim to revolutionize the NGS target enrichment market. This is backed off a new product line that includes modular kits for library preparation and target enrichment, facilitating rapid adoption. Watch this space for more on that exciting development.
I was also fortunate to speak with Excelra’s SVP of Pharma Analytics, Nandu Gattu.
Excelra is a data and analytics company aiming to empower life science innovation by providing insights to their customers through incredibly sophisticated collection and interpretation of data. They see their unique selling point as their ability to effectively utilize data in a totally unique way.
Their sizeable team, consisting of hundreds of PHD-qualified scientists, extract data manually, curate it from public sources and then structure it before developing models and algorithms to drive insights. Very few competitors possess the same intellectual firepower as Excelra.
Excelra’s team works with their clients in several ways including the repurposing of failed molecules, identifying new targets or biomarkers, drug combination prediction, and helping to stratify patients at various phases of clinical programs based on genomic clustering using AI/ML approaches. Looking ahead, Excelra aims to use their bioinformatic and data science expertise to further accelerate drug discovery and development.
SOPHiA GENETICS is a business with a bold mission – to democratize data-driven medicine. Kevin Puylaert, Sophia’s VP for North America, explained to me that SOPHiA differs from the competition by taking a de-centralized approach to data.
By not having one center of data, SOPHiA aims to give widespread access to a much larger pool of medical data, in the process creating an incredibly powerful communal, common intelligence which is easier to scale up.
The SOPHiA platform is built using techniques such as statistical inference, pattern recognition and machine learning. This enables SOPHiA to provide equal benefits to all users, unite experts and facilitate knowledge sharing for a sustainable impact on future patients.
Oncology is an area that SOPHiA is impacting greatly. With the addition of radiomic keys to their portfolio of data, scientists are able to follow multiple patients’ cancer journeys. In turn, this gives physicians the ability to create clusters of cancer patients, which then drives insights and improves treatment en masse – more than any individual institution could.
That’s five companies all approaching the brave new world of bioinformatics in different ways, looking to utilize the infinite amount of data that we now have access at our disposal to advance research and improve clinical outcomes.
It was a pleasure to talk with Sam Partovi, Kirk Sudheimer, Esteban Toro, Nandu Gattu, and Kevin Puylaert. I can’t wait to see what these innovative businesses come up with next as they continue to blaze a trail in this market.
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