Kenny Beckman knows a little bit about personalized medicine.
Beckman is the director of the Biomedical Genomics Center at the University of Minnesota. Last week he discussed, among other things, some of his favorite genomics companies while speaking at the 2011 Minnesota Bioscience Summit.
“Unlike most of the sequencing companies, their model is to simply sell you the data,” Beckman said. These outsourced service models are much lower in cost than using DNA sequence instruments yourself.
Complete Genomics is a popular pick. The California-based life sciences company provides genome sequencing services to researchers. It was listed as one of VentureSource’s 50 most promising VC-backed companies in 2010. Plus, it’s considered one of the better IPOs to have come around in the past year (it went public in November) – even though both the price of sequencing and the demand for sequencers has dipped recently.
Complete Genomics recently struck a deal to sequence 1,500 genomes to determine a genetic basis for preterm birth. By the middle of next year, the company expects to have a product on the market that can sequence up to 10 genomes daily. By 2015, it wants to have a device on the market that could handle 80 genomes daily (its current systems sequence one genome daily).
Massachusetts-based genomics company Knome is also well known. It sequences genomes and interprets the data around disease states and the response to certain drugs. It was the first to offer commercial whole-genome sequencing (for a mere $350,000 – now the service is just $4,998).
The company started around the same time as businesses like 23andMe and Navigenics took off (and it has consistently billed itself as a more reliable alternative to those services). It recently touted its connection to identifying a new biomarker for Parkinson’s disease.
“Basically, their proposition is that you don’t really want to do the sequencing yourself. All you want is the data,” Beckman said, pointing out that Complete Genomics and Knome do not have to put as much time and effort into things like packaging, manuals and so forth.
“They run the machines that they make and what they provide is the service. And I think in the long run their model might actually really do well,” Beckman said.
What’s more, Beckman said the next big opportunity in the genomics industry is to address getting phenotypic data to associate with genetic data.
“Any company that manages to associate rich information, or vast amounts of information with genetic data, and then crunch that to come up with more useful predictive algorithms, will have really contributed and won the race, probably commercially, too,” he said.