Big data has been a big trend over the past year, with startups like Platfora and Cloudera helping companies process and make use of their data in real-time. Increasingly solutions are emerging for specific industries or roles, from Venngage’s platform for marketing teams, to Retention Science’s solution for ecommerce businesses. Today Redwood City, CA-based Bina is launching its big data platform for the medical industry, designed specifically to help store and analyze genomic sequencing information.
The company is a Stanford spinoff, and CEO Narges Bani Asadi was completing her PhD at Stanford when she started working on the project a year and a half ago. Now the company has 15 employees, has seed capital from several investors and is in the middle of raising another round, and is releasing its first commercially available product, the Bina Genomic Analysis Platform, which helps pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, researchers, and clinicians analyze large amounts of genomic sequencing data.
Bina’s SVP of business development Mark Sutherland said genomic sequencing is a growing industry, with more and more people having their DNA decoded every year, and that’s where the inspiration for Bina comes from. With the DNA sequence data from one person taking up half a terabyte of space, drastically increasing the number of datasets requires not only more space, but new software to compare samples to each other and draw conclusions.
“What was sort of evident to us is that there were no robust, scalable solutions to handle this data flow, and make it manageable for scientists and clinicians,” Sutherland said in an interview. “The cost of producing this genetic information has dropped precipitously, and is now down in the range of just a couple thousand dollars to create the raw data from one human’s DNA sequence information. Now that it’s cost-effective to do this, the remaining challenge has been handling the complexity, and this truly is a big data problem.”
The Bina Genomic Analysis Platform is designed to work with existing sequencing systems, taking the data produced by those systems and assembling it into a format that is usable for medical discovery and patient care. The product is a combination of hardware and software, since customers get a physical Bina Box product and installation, then pay an annual subscription fee for the software, with access to training and technical support.
“We’re aiming to really be the bridge between sequencing players…and the personalized medicine therapies and physicians, clinicians, and researchers downstream who will actually be tailoring custom therapies to patients,” said Mahni Ghorashi, Director of Strategic Marketing at Bina, in an interview. “Today that’s really impossible given the sheer volume of big data and the difficulty and complexity in analyzing it.”
This product is the first in a series of planned products, and while it’s designed to analyze one genome at a time, future products will allow customers to compare thousands at a time, and will allow researchers to pool their data to compare and find commonalities.
“The human genome is sort of like a really big complicated jigsaw puzzle. There are billions of pieces of this jigsaw puzzle, and the way the instruments work today…is that they spit out the pieces of the puzzle one at a time, although very, very quickly,” Sutherland added. “What the Bina Genomic Analysis Platform does is assemble those into a comprehensive picture,” adding that eventually is will compare all those puzzles against each other to gain more insights.
With companies like 23andme making DNA analysis available to the average person while also shining a light on what’s possible through genetic sequencing, Bina is tackling the other end of the spectrum, namely analyzing data in a lab or at a hospital. Whether pharmaceutical companies and researchers will be willing to adopt a partly cloud-based solution (they will build an onsite solution on request) remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: genetic sequencing and the discoveries and personalized care that could come out of mapping genomes will likely be big business over the next few years.