Genohub Adds Storage, Project Management Guarantees to Sequencing Marketplace
By Allison Proffitt
December 21, 2016 | Three years after its launch, Genohub is refining its mission, focusing on process and user experience more than just transactions.
In September 2013, the sequencing marketplace launched based in Austin, Texas, recalled Masoud Toloue, company co-founder. Along with Pouya Razavi, Genohub’s CEO and other founder, Toloue wanted to address sequencing capacity issues. “There’s a disconnect between sequencing providers and [the] researchers who need their services,” Toloue said. In 2013, Toloue and Razavi saw Genohub functioning like Kayak, the travel shopping site—a one-stop-shop that lets buyers apply filters to find the best tickets.
But since then Genohub has found that researchers and service providers have a much more intimate relationship than we do with airlines.
“In the last two years, we’ve learned that there’s a real intimate and often clumsy dynamic between researcher and the [sequencing] service provider,” Toloue told Bio-IT World last week. “The researcher wants certain things accomplished, and the provider has their own opinion of what needs to be done. A lot of times they’re not on the same page.”
So Genohub has expanded its role to not only serve as a shopping site for sequencing services, but as an authoritative third party to facilitate the transaction.
The shift necessitated new platforms, policies, and storage capabilities for Genohub. The Genohub project management platform is an interface for both the researcher and the service provider. Genohub sets and enforces turnaround times, quality guarantees, payment guarantees (Genohub pays service providers on a schedule instead of waiting for researchers to pay first), and serves as expert supervision of the transaction. “It’s a clear and concise interface where everyone gets on the same page,” Toloue explained.
The platform supports all communication between multiple collaborators. Researchers can invite research partners, advisors, or bioinformaticians to be part of the process. All participants can add to editable project notes to track progress and the site automatically takes care of recording the revision history so important details aren't lost. Documents can be uploaded to the system, and projects are assigned Genohub project buckets with unlimited, secure data storage.
Most importantly, Toloue said, is data handoff. Providers and researchers often use unsecured methods of data return that are subject to timing out and other failure. “We’ve seen disasters happen where we’ve had to negotiate resequencing because perfectly fine data was deleted,” he said.
This all seems like quite a lot of responsibility for Genohub to take on. Wouldn’t it be easier to let the market sort itself out—Genohub does post provider reviews—with the most competent service providers rising to the top?
“For generic, commodity services—maybe, for example, whole genome sequencing—that’s absolutely correct. But then we you start getting more nuanced, and library prep starts becoming a skill or a craft… then those are not commodity services,” Toloue argues.
Genohub lists more than 200 providers, Toloue said, many offering services including 10x Genomics services, immunoprecipitation, ChIP-seq, RIP-seq, RNA-seq, depletion solutions for Ribo-seq, DNA library prep, and more. It's those specialists that Toloue believes will most benefit from the Genohub platform. “There might be [just a few labs] in the whole world who are really experts in this area, but they just don’t have that infrastructure to be able to offer this extra service,” he said.
And of course the biggest incentive for service providers is the audience. The marketplace has more than 1,500 active researchers buying sequencing from 27 different countries.
The Genohub headcount is still small. In addition to CEO Pouya Razavi, there are two full time employees; Toloue is part time. But it’s been a full three years for the company. Since 2013, Toloue says Genohub transitioned “from a marketplace with the ability to search and find services in a really fast and efficient way to get a quote,… to becoming the most reliable way to conduct next-gen sequencing projects from beginning to end.”
Editor's Note: Additional details added for clarity in paragraphs 7 & 8.