The rise of the Silicon Valley biocomputing startup

The growing need for computer-enabled capabilities in drug development has led to the creation of biotech-focused software startups trying to replicate the success of the likes of Medidata ($MDSO). And the obvious base for these startups is the one part of the U.S. where biotech and tech hubs are co-located: San Francisco.

A TechCrunch feature picks out four companies--Benchling, Genome Compiler, TeselaGen and Transcriptic--which are all based on the 45-mile strip between San Francisco and San Jose. Apple ($AAPL), Google ($GOOG), Genentech and a host of other biopharma and tech companies are headquartered on the same patch. The feature focuses on TeselaGen, a business that aims to enable rapid prototyping of recombinant molecules by applying computer-aided design (CAD) to biology.

"Our vision is about closing the design-build-test-and-evolve loop. We want to shorten the time frame it takes to get your DNA built and run more experiments," TeselaGen CEO Mike Fero told TechCrunch. Fero is a former protein localization expert at Stanford University and vice president of Neomorphics, a computational genomics company that was bought out by Affymetrix ($AFFX) in 2000. Amgen ($AMGN) is among the companies helping to validate TeselaGen's technology.

Using a workflow that goes from CAD to DNA assembly instruction optimization software and finally on to computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), TeselaGen is trying to make the synthesis of thousands of subtly different variants viable. The CAM step uses liquid handling robots to assemble DNA based on the instructions developed in the CAD phase. Fellow West Coast startup Transcriptic handles the manufacturing phase of the process.

- read the TechCrunch feature