By Allison Proffitt
August 19, 2013 | Bina Technologies has launched two new capabilities making their big data genomics platform accessible to more users. Whole Exome Analysis and Bina On-Demand expand the user base for the company’s hardware appliance that quickly handles assembly and alignment of raw reads and variant calling in next generation sequencing.
It’s been a big year for Bina. The company announced their offerings in February at AGBT. Since then the team has completed a series B round of financing worth $8 million led by Sierra Ventures, Columbus Nova Technology Partners (CNTP), and AME Cloud Ventures.
|Narges Bani Asadi
Headcount has also grown. Narges Bani Asadi, Bina’s founder and CEO, welcomed Sharon Barr (formerly of Couchbase and Yahoo) as Vice President of Engineering; Take Ogawa—of Complete Genomics, RainDance Technologies, Roche and Invitrogen—as Director of Field Sales; and Thomas Kanar (formerly with Authonet Mobile) as CFO.
The capabilities announced today mark the next step in Bina’s evolution.
Bina’s first product, the Bina Genomic Analysis Platform, dealt exclusively with whole genome analysis. “We solved the hardest problem first,” Asadi says. The hardware piece sits right next to the sequencer, collecting all the data seamlessly. The company’s algorithms can assemble, align, and handle variant calling on a whole genome sample in three hours, Asadi said.
The new pipeline is specifically for whole exome analysis and can handle analysis in a half an hour.
“In theory you could think, we could run a whole genome, so it’s very easy also to run a whole exome,” Asadi explained. “But there are detail differences. For the exome… The depth of coverage is different, the capture is different, which introduces some noise usually, so you have to be careful where you align the read and where you call the variants.”
Asadi says the exome analysis platform is the first of many new workflows that can be expected in the coming months. “We want to make sure we address all the different demands that a user of next generation sequencing data has.”
The result, the company hopes, is an expanded audience for Bina, which is where the Bina On-Demand business model comes in.
Genomics Vending Machine
The Bina Box can be compared to a cable box. The use of the box—as well as the channels and services it delivers—is part of your a fee.
“Our standard product offering is a subscription-based agreement,” Mark Sutherland, Bina’s Senior Vice President of Business Development explained. “The entire package—the hardware platform called the Bina Box, along with the operating system, the applications, the training and technical support—is all delivered as an integrated package, delivered to the customer’s site for a monthly fee. The use of that box is unlimited during that box, and they can process as many samples as they wish of any type with any frequency.”
But just as all users are not doing whole genome sequencing, all users are not working at a volume to keep a dedicated Bina Box engaged. “For active genome centers and cancer researchers that have a lot of data flowing through the lab, that works really well because it gives them the lowest effective price per sample as long as the box is kept fairly occupied.”
“For smaller researchers that have projects that might not keep a Bina Box fully busy, [Bina On-Demand] puts the technologies in their hands in an affordable way.”
Instead of the cable box, Sutherland suggests a vending machine. The Bina Box is still delivered to the customer’s site, but there’s no monthly fee, no subscription. “If you walk by it and you don’t use it, you don’t pay. Whereas if you want a Diet Coke, you put in a dollar and you get the product.”
The Bina on Demand offering allows users to simply share. “It allows us to make the product available to individual researchers—scientists, labs, departments—across an academic setting where any one of these investigators by themselves may not have a workload sufficient to justify a Bina Box for their sole use, but by being a part of a user community for Bina on Demand, they can send their projects there and get very quick turnaround, very high speed, very high accuracy, ease of use, robustness that a dedicated Bina solution would provide, but pay only for what they use.”
Bina records the highest level information about usage—users and job titles—and submits that to the host organization with the monthly bill. The host manages the user level billing.
The shared user community, of course, has its challenges. Asadi says that before the Bina on Demand could launch, the company developed “very innovative software” to address the privacy concerns inherent in a shared workspace. “Each of the different scientists has their data completely secure and in isolation from the other scientists,” she said.
The security upgrades again expand Bina’s client pool and, Sutherland thinks, offer a distinct advantage over cloud solutions.
“We’re seeing more and more of these applications of interest happening in children’s hospitals, cancer centers—what we call clinical core labs,” he said. “Eventually there will be patient privacy and HIPAA issues around these datasets and many of these customers of ours feel more comfortable having an on premises solution that sits behind their firewall that they feel helps keep them consistent with best practices around patient privacy.”
Asadi says the On-Demand offering can even be considered a private cloud. “You should think about it as a private, on premises cloud. It scales in hardware, software infrastructure, as well as all the applications. It’s very easy to tune it to that institution’s demands.”
The “box” name can be a bit misleading, Asadi and Sutherland said. Bina Boxes can be stacked and customized to provide a scalable solution.
“You used to hear about studies for 10s or even 50 patients. Now you’re hearing about studies about 500, 1,000, 5,000 or more. We’re aware of a couple of national initiatives where over 100,000 patients will be sequenced,” Sutherland said. “One of the advantages of the Bina platform is not only its speed, but its scalability. Narges and the development team here have designed a platform that is rather extensible. People today may only have 20 or 50 samples in a month. We firmly believe these same accounts will be processing 500 a month a year from now. So by getting started with them today, we can build out to meet their needs as they expand.”