George Church created the Personal Genome Project, a big plan to sequence more than 100,000 human genomes in the U.S. Now the database he’s been using to store all that information has become the basis for a new startup.
Boston-based Curoverse is announcing today that it’s raised $1.5 million in seed funding to continue developing Arvados, an open source computational platform that houses massive amounts of genomic data. Hatteras Venture Partners, Point Judith Ventures, MassVentures, Boston Global Ventures, and Common Angels have provided the funding for Curoverse, which plans to release its first commercial products next year.
Curoverse is a product of the Personal Genome Project, according to CEO Adam Berrey. That project was spearheaded by Church to sequence a massive number of genomes and link each individual’s health information. Church realized when taking this on that to successfully do so and start similar studies around the world, he needed a massive database. So he looked to one of his computer scientists, Alexander Wait Zaranek, to create one with a few key factors. It had to be able to hold close to an exabyte worth of data. Researchers had to be able to use it to efficiently analyze data and make sense of what they see. It had to be shareable from one research center to another. And most importantly, it made to make complex analyses easily reproducible.
Zaranek’s team came up with Arvados, which Berrey says is based on a lot of modern day cloud-computing and big-data technologies, only tailored to handle a giant amount of genomic information. Berrey says Arvados helps make computations reproducible—say, if a scientist wants to repeat an experiment from a few months ago and see if the results have changed. It’s also shareable, meaning a bioinformaticist could write an algorithm, and run it across data that’s stored at several different locations. Curoverse can run on both public and private cloud services, so it’ll be available both on Amazon and other cloud platforms, according to Berrey.
Though the first iteration of Arvados was initially developed in 2006 and deployed two years later to power Church’s study under the name FreeFactories, the cost of sequencing was too high at the time to use the software to start a company. So even though the company was officially incorporated in 2010, executives weren’t hired to steer the ship until 2012. That’s when Berrey, a veteran of software startups like Allaire and Brightcove, was brought in as CEO, and Jonathan Sheffi was hired to handle business development. (Zaranek is the company’s scientific director, while Church is on the scientific advisory board, according to Berrey.)
The group has since been bootstrapping it, putting together a business plan, and figuring out how to get it financed. With the seed money in place, the company—-which was initially called Clinical Future, but is now known as Curoverse—is expanding its team of engineers and getting ready to bring its first product to market.
Even so, Curoverse is joining what’s becoming an increasingly … Next Page »