From Bordeaux to San Diego: Portable Genomics on the Move

Xconomy San Diego — 

Fresh on the heels of advances in genome sequencing announced by Illumina and Complete Genomics earlier this week (and by Life Technologies last month), a French scientist tells me he is moving his startup, Portable Genomics, to San Diego.

Patrick Merel, a molecular biologist in Bordeaux, tells me by e-mail he has applied for an entrepreneur visa application that will enable him to move his company here. He writes in English, which is far better than my French, “Plans are to start end of this month to show up our business plan to San Diego and Silicon Valley investors.”

I met Merel in San Diego last May while he was attending a three-day summit organized by the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance. Even then he was thinking of moving to San Diego, saying, “In Europe we are facing difficulties in using genetic data, particularly in France where there are restrictions.” The vision for Portable Genomics, he said, is building tools that allow molecular biologists “to visualize your genome and to [help you] understand what is clinically important.”

The concept, which is still at a very early stage, is based on the assumption that it will be possible in another year to completely sequence an individual human genome for less than $1,000—and within three years, for less than $300. This is the promise of the recent announcements coming out of Life Technologies, Illumina, and Complete Genomics, as the speed of genetic sequencing increases and costs plummet.

Portable Genomics logo 2011The essential challenge, Merel told me, is figuring out how to get useful clinical data from the massive amount of computerized data generated by genome sequencing. “We want to have a tool on a portable device that will enable them to know information and what is important.” A woman with a genetic susceptibility to breast cancer, for example, should go more frequently for breast exams. Merel says software under development by Personal Genomics is intended to interpret a person’s genomic data and provide the relevant information to the consumer via a smart phone or other mobile devices.

Merel says that Portable Genomics’ software—which would work with data generated by a variety of sequencing technologies—would be offered on a subscription basis (i.e. software-as-a-service). The company is initially targeting … Next Page »

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