Genomics Firm Attracts High-Tech Investments

Microsoft and Google are among several investors to fund genomics data company DNAnexus.

Access to big data is impacting the biopharmaceutical industry in dramatic ways. One area of significance is the ability to analyze large sets of genomics data for a whole host of applications from drug discovery to patient care. Effective tools for managing and manipulating that data are essential to fully achieving those potential benefits.

 And those benefits – and the potential profits that providing them might bring – have attracted big-name high-tech companies to this segment of the pharmaceutical industry. One such example: the recent investment by these two companies in the California-based cloud-computing company DNAnexus. The genomics company raised $58 million in this recent financing round, with additional support from healthcare-focused investment firm Foresite Capital and Wuxi AppTec’s genomics subsidiary WuXi NextCODE, among others. 

What exactly does DNAnexus offer? Its cloud-based data management platform is specifically designed for sharing, management and analysis of very large volumes of genomic data between researchers working in different locations and on different projects. The recent funding will be used by the company to further develop and launch its translational medicine solutions and expand the reach of its platform in clinical trials, according to CEO Richard Daly.

The platform is already being used for a number of biopharmaceutical projects. For instance, in 2017 DNAnexus’ product was selected by AstraZeneca’s Centre for Genomics Research, which is analyzing more than two million genomes in a decade to inform drug discovery and development. 

The company also made a number of enhancements to the platform in 2017. As one example, Google’s new DeepVariant bioinformatics technology has been incorporated into the genomics platform. This tool uses deep learning to call genetic variants from next-generation sequencing data. “DeepVariant is one of the first tools to deliver on that promise by making the critical first step to more accurately identify genetic differences among individuals,” Vik Bajaj, Foresite’s managing director and former CSO at Verily Life Sciences, previously said. “By making a reference implementation broadly accessible, I believe Google and DNAnexus will accelerate a growing body of research that requires high-quality genomic information.”

In June 2017, DNAnexus also introduced Mosaic, a new microbiome platform, in conjunction with Janssen Research & Development. This platform operates in a similar manner, but is designed for the storage, management and sharing of microbiome data. 

“As the volume of biomedical information continues to increase, the DNAnexus platform and upcoming product releases catalyze collaboration, data sharing and machine learning on which the development of precision medicine depends,” Foresite founder and CEO Jim Tananbaum said. 


Emilie Branch

Emilie is responsible for strategic content development based on scientific areas of specialty for Nice Insight research articles and for assisting client content development across a range of industry channels. Prior to joining Nice Insight, Emilie worked at a strategy-based consulting firm focused on consumer ethnographic research. She also has experience as a contributing editor, and has worked as a freelance writer for a host of news and trends-related publications