San Diego’s Edico Genome is now in its fourth year as a startup, and well into the hard slog of striking partnership deals, generating revenue, and building a business.
Founding CEO Pieter van Rooyen started Edico with the idea of developing a specialized processor to accelerate the way genome sequencing data gets processed. Today Edico says it has joined forces with Dell EMC to provide a service that combines Edico’s analytical tools with Dell EMC’s data storage and cloud-based computing capabilities.
The company has grown to almost 50 employees, but Van Rooyen wouldn’t say how much revenue Edico is generating or whether it’s profitable yet. He also wouldn’t talk about financial terms of the Dell EMC deal during a phone call yesterday, but he said the deal with Dell EMC is typical of the kind of partnerships with big tech players that have been key to his strategy from the beginning.
“The issue with a startup is there’s no name recognition,” van Rooyen said. On the other hand, he said, “The genomics space is new, and tech companies see it as a growth area. And we have compelling technology that big tech players see as a big advantage.”
Edico has developed what it calls a “Bio-IT” computer processor for ordering the readout of nucleotides—A, C, T, or G—from the short segments of DNA generated by next-generation sequencing machines so they align with a reference genome. It’s a process that genomics specialists refer to as “mapping,” and determines the sequence of individual genomes.
Several companies are developing ways to help researchers process and analyze genomic data. As van Rooyen told me in a 2014 interview, what makes Edico unique is the way the company implemented its genome-mapping algorithm. Edico incorporated data compression techniques into a specialized processor known as a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), which van Rooyen said is faster, more accurate, and power-efficient than competing technologies.
Partnering with recognized tech players gives Edico’s customers more choices, van Rooyen said. Some want to store their data in the cloud, and some prefer that their data servers remain on-site. “We’re not trying to give them one particular solution,” he said.
Such flexibility is even more important for European customers, van Rooyen said, as genomic data typically must remain within each country’s borders for both privacy and security reasons.
Van Rooyen wouldn’t say how many customers Edico has now, but the technology is being used for both research and clinical applications, and the list includes Johns Hopkins Genomics, San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital, Baylor Genetics, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, PerkinElmer, Genewiz, and Macrogen.
Edico also has signed technology partnership agreements with Intel, Amazon Web Services, and IBM.