Maverix enters genomics software game with Silicon Valley sizzle

With scientists fretting over DNA data overload, Maverix Biomics has become one of the latest of many outfits to offer software to help them make sense of the huge amount of information. Yet the company wants to make its mark by providing software for scientists who aren't computer whizzes, CEO Dave Mandelkern told FierceBiotech IT.

Maverix, which is announcing its analytics platform today at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting in San Francisco, is homing in on a logjam impeding progress in genomics: lack of bioinformatics support in some labs. While lots of open-source and proprietary tools exist to analyze scientific data, a researcher might need training in software development or bioinformatics to use many of those tools. In some cases, there just aren't enough computer-savvy folks in the lab to go around.

Mandelkern's company, formed in 2011, has taken open-source software such as the widely used Genome Browser from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and made the applications more accessible to the average scientist. It's found early interest from pharma researchers whose companies can't provide bioinformatics support for their projects as well as small biotech companies without the budget to invest in the IT infrastructure and staff for in-house genomics analysis support, the CEO said.

"Our design goal," Mandelkern said, "was that if you can use a Macintosh … you should be able to use our platform--it's that simple and intuitive." 

Maverix has raised more than $1 million in a seed round of financing led by Asset Management Ventures, a VC outfit out of Palo Alto, CA, with a long track record of supporting biotech and tech companies, Mandelkern said, Amgen ($AMGN) among them. And Gordon Ringold, a biotech industry veteran, serves on Maverix's board of directors and has also invested in the startup.

Along the lines of making its software widely accessible, Maverix has built its platform on Amazon's ($AMZN) public cloud, supporting features of the company's software that allow users to analyze, manage and share DNA data without big investments in internal IT. And the pay-as-you-go fee structure saves users from major upfront licensing fees and expensive subscriptions, Mandelkern said.

Mandelkern, a Stanford University grad who has built multiple software companies in other fields, believes that the features of Maverix's platform set it apart from competitors such as DNAnexus, CLC bio and Ingenuity Systems. Maverix's chief scientist, Todd Lowe, is a UCSC faculty member and one of the computational genomics experts who are helping to make sure its products fit the needs of scientists.

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