Startup Spiral Genetics takes shot at bioinformatics

Bioinformatics has become the kind of field that draws even young entrepreneurs with limited backgrounds in scientific computing. Spiral Genetics, a Seattle-based startup, is a case in point. It grew out of a University of Washington-Bothell entrepreneurship class, and its co-founder and CEO Adina Mangubat studied psychology before getting into the bioinformatics game, Xconomy reports.

Word's getting out that software programs that help researchers gain insights into biological data are in demand, especially as scientists struggle to make sense of a deluge of data made available with fast and inexpensive DNA sequencing. Spiral, which hatched in 2009, has begun with products that wrap together open source software that operates on a distributed computing platform, Xconomy reports, noting that the focus of the startup has changed from the consumer market to the research market during its short history.

Software entrepreneurs have a lot of fertile ground to work with in bioinformatics. While companies such as Illumina ($ILMN) have provided technology to make DNA sequencing way faster and cheaper than it was a few years ago, scientists now have mountains of data to analyze in order to gain an understanding of what the data mean. Bioinformatics tools can help make that happen, with  innovations helping to make the analysis efficient and accessible to non-IT experts.

Spiral Genetics doesn't focus on developing new algorithms for these analyses, but rather relies on a menu of freely available open source software to build products for researchers. As Xconomy points out, the challenge for the young company will be getting enough research customers to pay for its products. While viable, the bioinformatics field has become more crowded with large companies including BGI and PerkinElmer ($PKI).

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