Developing the large-scale data stores of the future
Fed up of spending all your time trying to build increasingly advanced infrastructure for your research? The team at Onramp Bioinformatics are more than happy to use their considerable expertise to let you get back to actually using your data. CEO and Founder, Tim Wesselman explains…
FLG: You have over 20 years tech experience with some of the biggest names in the business. What led to the founding of ONRAMP?
TW: Response: I have spent the last 20 years dedicated to understanding next generation servers and storage solutions. As a Vice President at Hewlett-Packard, I also lead strategy & partnerships with the market leaders in big data software, advanced processors and cloud computing. These partners included those big names, like FaceBook, MapR, Cloudera and DataStax with solutions that companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu and many others heavily rely on today. I entered the genomics market because I saw an opportunity to bring this knowledge of advanced technology into the healthcare space and dramatically accelerate precision medicine and population scale insights for the researchers, bioinformaticians and doctors that are working to solve some of the most important questions that we have today in human health and longevity.
At Onramp BioInformatics, I’ve built a team bioinformaticians, software engineers and medical experts to innovate the processing, storage and analysis of genomic information. Our software platform, the Genomics Research Platform, empowers researchers, biopharma and doctors to turn genetic data into actionable insights faster and more reliably than ever before.
FLG: With sequencing technology developing the way it has over the past few years, genomics has become a very data centric field. How do the big data challenges within genomics compare to those in more mature fields?
TW: It’s funny to think about how we humans now have an “online genetic presence” or online data that is linked so much to who we are. With social media, what we do, watch and buy has become the DNA of our online personas. Ironically, social media and eCommerce companies have deployed more advanced technology for the computation and storage of our online personas than what I’ve seen the medical industry deploy for our biological data. I recently read an interesting white paper in Nature (http://www.nature.com/news/genome-researchers-raise-alarm-over-big-data-1.17912), where they compared the data demands of social media sites, like Twitter and YouTube, to biological genomic data. They estimate that 2 billion genomes will be sequenced by 2025, and our biological DNA will be the biggest of all big data – producing 40 Exabytes of data. That’s 20 times more data than YouTube, and nearly 2500x the data Twitter has forecasted to generate at that same time.
It’s clear that what we can do with PetaBytes or ExaBytes of genomic data is more than we can understand today. That’s why we’re passionate about enabling our partners and customers. It’s their research data, and our future. Their research is crucial for finding cures, improving drug efficacy and detecting disease across entire populations. As their research data grows, these large-scale genomic data stores will serve as the competitive battleground in the future of precision medicine and healthcare.
Hoping your readers take no offense, I relate how the experts in BioInformatics are struggling to do this well by continually reinventing the wheel with their DIY software tools and pipelines, to that of bootstrapping a startup out of a garage today the same way Steve Jobs did Apple back in 1976. Today there are third-party services and providers available to provide affordable expertise and knowledge base to do it right, without all the trial-and-error. Bioinformaticians can now go back to doing their amazing work, and not try to figure out how to build such an advanced infrastructure for their research.
Really, it’s all about convergence.
Today’s big data challenge in genomics can’t be solved with a single software application, just as it can’t be solved with hardware alone. Converging big data insights with genomic analysis and storage is the key to developing the competitive large-scale data stores of the future.
FLG: As an observer, it’s been fun to see so many new companies come into this space with their solutions. I know that you guys at ONRAMP believe very strongly in your platform and are actively encouraging people to trial it out for free. What would you say really sets you guys apart from the crowd?
TW: After looking at most of our “competitors” (which I use with a smile from the latin root: “to strive together”), my team as identified how we are currently the only ones that are bringing a converged big data platform to genomics analysis and storage. We enable the best of both worlds, a highly scalable Software as a Service that is deployed on-site for our customers, so they get the performance and security of an onsite system that’s scalable, with the same economics of a cloud-based solution. Our customers want a solution that will not just last for the current grant cycle, but will grow and scale as their data expands dramatically and their needs evolve.
We built out a comprehensive suite of genomics analysis capabilities that provide powerful bioinformatic pipelines that are both easy to use and fully capable of customization. These analysis pipelines are auditable and highly repeatable. Moreover, all customer data is stored at the customer site, in a highly-resilient and protected scalable storage system.
And this is just the beginning, because our platform also includes a full analytics engine powered by R, Hadoop and Spark. Through these technologies, we enable our customers to harness all their valuable genomic data, no matter where or how it is stored in their system. This is the key to enabling population scale insights.
FLG: You have an impressive list of partners already. Have you had any success stories from the use of your platform yet?
TW: We are working some of the most amazing partners in the Precision Medicine space and have been honored to support research with the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of California at San Francisco and San Diego, City of Hope, San Diego State University, Phoenix Children’s Hospital as well as some pioneers in the Clinical Trial field.
We have a number of research projects underway with these partners, many are expected to be published in white papers over the coming weeks. Without going into too much detail, because this is really the great work of our customers and partners, you’ll read about some incredible insights into prostate cancer, cross-species environmental contamination, and precision oncology drug efficacy that has been running off of our system.
Utilizing the Genomics Research Platform, one of our customers has been able to process and generate more genomic data in one month than they had in the prior eight years. This has enabled them to catch up on research that was otherwise backlogged, and have awoken their institutions to the bioinformatics opportunities within their broader medical research and patient care.
FLG: What are the plans for ONRAMP moving forward?
Response: Our mission is to meaningfully accelerate precision medicine so we can all enjoy healthier, longer lives. To do this, we need Integrative Genomic Insights, linking genomics to our microbiome, the food we eat, the drugs we take and the way this all impacts our brain chemistries. Our platform is established and deployed. Going forward, we will be extending our machine learning across modalities, deeply accelerating whole genome processing to open up many clinical applications.
FLG: What do you anticipate to be the next set of challenges in genomics as the field continues to develop?
Response: The industry is still operating with too many silos. This is one of the fundamental challenges to any industry, but is especially constraining to the field of genomics. We need to be adapting new technologies to solve the new and ever more complex problems that inevitably arise for researchers in our field. Neither the field, nor its researchers are ever standing still – that’s why we’ve built a high degree of flexibility into our solution. This foundation allows users to integrate data from different sequencing technologies and diverse experiments from RNA expression to DNA methylation, and enables them to update their analyses as their research progresses, the industry expands, and knowledge bases grow.
FLG: Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you would like to mention to our readers?
TW: Specifically for readers who would like to speak to our team about a Genomics Research Platform solution, we gladly extend the opportunity to apply for a free trial program through our Front Line Genomics partnership.