Where Big DNA Meets Big IT: Computing in the Age of the $1,000 Genome

Xconomy San Francisco — 

It takes a lot of revenue to move the needle for multi-billion organizations. That’s partly why you haven’t seen them pay much attention to a field devoted to open-source technologies, like computing for genomics. But that’s changing in a hurry, as one market research firm said it expects bioinformatics to grow at a 25 percent annual clip, forming an $8.3 billion market by 2014.

Given how so much action is moving in this direction, I’m looking forward to hearing about the renewed interest in IT for DNA at our next big San Francisco event, “Computing in the Age of the $1,000 Genome.” This event will be hosted by QB3, the startup incubator at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, on the afternoon of Oct. 24.

We have a great group of speakers paired up for a series of interactive chats at this event, where they will talk about startup opportunities, the growing interest among big IT companies in genomics, the medical implications of all this fast/cheap genome sequencing, and the long-term ramifications for society.

Here’s who you can expect to hear from at the big companies working on the genome.

Tim Hunkapiller, consultant, Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE). Hunkapiller is one of the founding fathers of bioinformatics, going back to his work in the early 1980s in the Caltech lab that produced the first high-speed gene sequencing instruments. Hunkapiller has a long history as an academic scientist, and these days has his finger on the pulse of what’s hot in DNA sequencing instruments, including Life’s new semiconductor-based sequencer that it acquired from Ion Torrent.

Paul Rutherford

Paul Rutherford, chief technology officer, EMC/Isilon (NYSE: EMC). Rutherford’s company was acquired last year by EMC for $2.25 billion for its immense data storage capabilities that companies use for a lot more than streaming movies. The fastest-growing market that EMC tapped into was in selling Isilon technology to manage the genomic data explosion. His customer list includes some of the industry’s biggest names, including The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Johns Hopkins University, Merck, & Genentech.

Jim Karkanias

Jim Karkanias, senior director of applied research and technology, Microsoft Health Solutions (NASDAQ: MSFT). While I doubt anyone in the audience is using Microsoft’s HealthVault program to manage their electronic health records (are you?), the Redmond, WA software giant hasn’t given up. Its vision for health software includes everything from electronic health records through helping researchers and clinicians manage data from your DNA. Few people can explain what this is about better than Karkanias, who in a past life, worked for pharma giant Merck.

There will be plenty of time for members of the audience to ask questions, and to quiz these folks and our other speakers during the networking breaks. This will be just one part of a fascinating half-day forum exploring one of the hot fields in technology. You can get your tickets here at the registration page. See you there on Monday Oct. 24.