Spiral Genetics scores $3M VC round from major backer

After advancing a set of DNA data analysis tools to market, Seattle startup Spiral Genetics has latched onto some serious venture money, nailing down a $3 million Series A round from DFJ.

At the same time, Spiral revealed that the startup has partnered with Emeryville, CA-based Omicia, which provides informatics and technology that allow researchers to link human genome data to specific medical conditions. The tie-up gives Spiral an entre into the growing market for clinical genomics, growing from its base in the academic research, biopharma and agricultural genomics sectors. Spiral and Omicia are going up against plenty of competition, and others such as DNAnexus, Silicon Valley Biosystems and Knome have made inroads in various areas of the genomics analysis game.

The financing comes amid fierce competition in providing analysis of genomic data, with new companies crawling out of the woodwork to aid researchers in reining in the overwhelming amounts of data from speedy DNA sequencing machines. With the influx of venture money from DFJ (formerly Draper Fisher Jurvetson)--a backer of many high-flying tech outfits such as Skype and Twitter--Spiral has the means to beef up its engineering crew and sales team, the company said in a March 12 release.

While $3 million is lunch money in the biopharma industry, Spiral has never seen this much investment. Xconomy's Luke Timmerman, who has been following the Spiral story for more than a year, reports that the round brings its total funds raised to just $3.7 million. And Spiral CEO Adina Mangubat tells Timmerman that she feels her company, which she co-founded with a University of Washington classmate in 2009, has beat the odds getting this far.

Spiral sells a bundle of analysis tools for genomics data with versions that operate in the cloud and on customers' own servers. The startup is making a big claim, saying that it's got the fastest cloud-based bioinformatics system anywhere, reducing the time required to analyze whole human genomes from days to three hours. This helps keep the analysis side apace with the sequencing end of things, which Illumina ($ILMN) has reduced to about a day for a entire genome.

"Innovations in DNA sequencing have led to an explosion of data, which presents an enormous market opportunity," DFJ's Rachel Pike said in a statement. "These developments are only accelerating and will have real and lasting implications on drug development, R&D in agriculture, and biological production of chemicals and fuels. Spiral Genetics is a solution that will both manage and draw insight from these data, enabling the industry to keep up with constantly-accelerating technological progress."

- here's the release
- see Xconomy's article