Remaking genome analysis

July 11, 2012: 6:34 AM ET

Bina is bringing an Apple-like business model to the rapidly expanding world of genomics.

FORTUNE -- The human genome can now be sequenced for as little as $1,000. But actually deciphering all that raw genetic data can still cost upwards of $10,000, costly by any stretch.

Redwood Shores, California-based Bina Technologies thinks that disparity means opportunity. The company, founded last year, began as a cancer research project at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. It morphed into a business when CEO Narges Bani Asadi, then a Ph.D student, realized the current process of analyzing medical data could be simplified by combining three distinctly different disciplines: bioinformatics -- or computer sciences applied to biology and medicine -- cloud computing, and high-performance computing.

Some researchers may upload their raw sequenced genetic data to a cloud-based analysis service, but that data is oftentimes massive -- as much as 300 gigabytes. Uploading the data and processing it with the help of hundreds of computers into a genetic profile can then take more a month. "What makes Bina unique is we don't get some off-the-shelf algorithm and try to optimize it," says Asadi. "We have a very unique architecture where a lot of competition may only have only software or cloud-based solutions."

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The Bina Box is an Apple-like (AAPL) combination of company-developed hardware and software that work together to crunch sequenced genetic data faster than conventional solutions -- sometimes over 100 times faster in some cases. The box analyzes and compresses those 300 gigabytes of raw data into several hundred megabytes of information -- making it much faster to upload -- and either transmits it to the Bina Cloud, which stores and processes the data, or a private cloud constructed for the company. That also allows users such as doctors and medical specialists to consume and share it. As a result, what once took several days to over a month to accomplish can take as little as two hours.

Bina, which is largely funded by an undisclosed group of angel investors, isn't ready to disclose pricing, but Asadi says they'll charge significantly less than available solutions when the technology is ready for primetime.

For now, the company is testing its technology with four clients including a government organization and well-known university. Each client will get a Bina Box for 90 days and receive assistance from the team's engineers and scientists.

While Bina's staff of 12 plans to focus on genomics for at least another year, Asadi does have hopes of tackling other areas where data-intensive applications could benefit from the marriage of brawny hardware and brainy software. The opportunities for Bina, if its technology catches on, could be as wide-ranging as the human genome itself.

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About This Author
JP Mangalindan
JP Mangalindan
Writer, Fortune

JP Mangalindan is a San Francisco-based writer at Fortune, covering Silicon Valley. Since joining in 2010, he has written on a wide array of topics, from the turnaround of eBay to the evolution of net neutrality. A graduate of Fordham University, Mangalindan has also written for GQ, Popular Science, and Entertainment Weekly.

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